Saudi Arabia: Introduction of a new Personal Status Law


published on 21 December 2022 | reading time approx. 3 minutes


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has introduced a personal status law as part of its reform efforts. This was announced in March 2022. The new law came into force 90 days later, on Saturday, June 18, 2022.  




The reform of the Personal Status Law took place within the framework of the reform of the legal system initiated and supervised by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. The law reform is in line with Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to enhance quality of life, integrity, protection of human rights and efficiency of systems, as well as improve services.
The new law aims to ensure in more than 250 articles a clear legal framework for families and is intended to support the stability of families. Moreover, the law seeks to improve the status of the family and child. It aims to limit the discretionary power of the judge to prevent discrepancy of judicial rulings in this regard. Problems through which women and families suffer are to be solved by the new law.
The new law is based on the rules of the Islamic Shariah Code and its objectives. The latest legal trends and modern international judicial practices were also taken into account. In addition, according to the Crown Prince, the new law will lead to improvements in human rights, family stability and empowerment of women and promotion of rights.
The new Personal Status Law grants women the legal freedom to decide about who they will marry. The legal guardian can not prevent the marriage if the woman wants to marry someone who is equal to her. Women can file lawsuits and review their marriage contracts.
The spouses may demand the annulment of the marriage contract if one of the spouses fails to fulfill an agreed condition. The wife has the right to unilaterally dissolve the marriage contract.
Also regulated are the requirements for the marriage of mentally minor persons and the marriage of persons of under 18 years of age. Without the consent of the legal court, these persons cannot marry.
Both the fiancé and the fiancée have the right to dissolve the engagement. What the fiancé offers to the fiancée during the courtship period is considered as a gift unless the fiancé declares that it is part of the dowry.
If one of the fiancés changes the engagement for a reason attributable only to him or her, he or she does not have the right to reclaim gifts. However, the other party is entitled to reclaim the gift if it is still available. However, only to the extent of the value of the gift on the day of the gift. This does not apply if the gift is consumed by nature. The return of gifts is excluded if the engagement ends with death or for a reason for which neither party is responsible.
The dowry is the property of the wife, she is not obliged to dispose of it to others.
The new law contains regulation of marriage from engagement to divorce and khul´o (It is Arabic word for the wife´s divorce request). Parentage, alimony and children´s custody are also regulated. For the first time the law explicitly regulates that children´s custody is for the mother. In addition, the new law contains regulations on the dispute of birth and marriage impediments.
The husband is obliged to provide food, shelter, clothing and other necessities for his wife, even if she is wealthy.
A divorce in which the word divorce is repeated several times is considered to be only one divorce. The new law provides transparency to many status related questions like alimony, visiting children and divorce in a state of extreme anger.
Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Supreme Judiciary Council Dr. Walid Al-Samaani expects that the new law will help to dissolve differences related to civil status issues in general and those related to the family in particular bevor they even reach the courts.
Other voices also emphasize that the new law strengthens the rights of divorced women who have raised children without financial support from the father of the child or who have no contact with their children. It is expected that in the future family law disputes can be settled quickly and effectively, as there is now a legal system that clearly defines rights and duties.
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