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Saudi to set up child custody visitation centres for divorced parents

Image used for illustrative purpose.
Parents sit behind their son in their living room.

Image used for illustrative purpose. Parents sit behind their son in their living room.

27 March 2017
By LULWA SHALHOUB

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Justice will establish child custody visitation centers in collaboration with the non-profit sector to offer a safer, healthier and entertaining space for divorced parents to collect their children.

The centers allow parents to spend time with their children instead of meeting at police stations, according to the new legal custody rules.
A date to open the visitation centers has not been announced.

Visitations at police stations is deemed to have a lifelong negative impact on the child’s psychological health, according to Mohammed Al-Radi, general manager and consultant at the non-profit Al-Mawaddah Society for Family Development, registered under the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

“We started receiving cases from law firms, police stations and sometimes we get cases from people who voluntarily approach us seeking help without going to courts,” Al-Radi told Arab News. “They see us as a neutral ground.”

The Jeddah-based society will work with the Justice Ministry on implementing the initiative in 60 centers around the Kingdom. The society, which has been accommodating and organizing parent-child visitation for the past four years, will be the model accredited by the ministry for other societies that wish to take part in this initiative. Al-Radi said that the society is now approaching counterparts across the Kingdom who want to execute this initiative.

Al-Mawaddah, which offers counseling services for parents and children, is so far the only authorized visitation center for the Makkah Province in collaboration with the Justice Ministry, Court of Civil Affairs and the Executive Court.

Al-Radi said the society is working with 846 families to either collect their children from the society or spend the visitation time there. Last year, it received 13,900 visitations.

“We do not only aim to execute this initiative,” said Al-Radi. Our goal is to provide the right environment for children after their parents get divorced.”

Al-Radi added that the society provides post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) therapy, especially for children of parents that are in a post-divorce ongoing conflict. “The society managed to decrease the conflict between families by 30 percent last year.”

The Ministry of Justice and Al-Mawadah Society have agreed to work on minimizing divorce rates and forming a guide for family protection to be circulated among committees supervised by the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

The ministry has issued a number of decisions to protect and keep rights of children including a circular issued by the Minister of Justice Walid Al-Samaani in which he considered that abstention from paying the prescribed alimony is one of the forms of violence against children, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) has reported.

About 36 percent of marriages in Saudi Arabia end with divorce, according to a report issued last year by the General Authority of Statistics. Saudi courts have registered 157,000 marriages and 46,000 divorces. About 127 cases of divorce occur per day.

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© Arab News 2017
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