I feel very blessed to be able to write to my readers and answer questions that may be of concern and that may affect their lives. I am also grateful that I have the freedom to talk about issues that may be very sensitive at times. Dealing with lawyers, unfortunately (and I hope to change this through my firm), can be very stressful. Dealing with lawyers about family issues is even more stressful for both the person dealing with the issue and the lawyer. Today, I have chosen to write about sensitive family issues. I hope they are of help.
Question: I heard divorce proceedings generally take a very long time – is this true? What should I expect?
Fajer: Unfortunately, going to court (in most countries) is a lengthy process, but with divorce more specifically, it depends on the circumstances. It depends if there was any physical abuse, if there are kids involved, the court where you married, if the husband and wife are agreeing to disagree or not and so on. Something to keep in mind though is that the judge will not look into the divorce without referring you to a marriage counselor first. There is a team of experienced professional counselors that aim to make both parties work on the marriage. Sometimes a partner doesn’t want to cooperate or both parties agree not to go for counseling – if that’s the case, a paper is signed by both parties and is taken back to the court where the proceedings would start.
I know quite a few married couples who were determined to obtain a divorce but came out of the marriage counseling program willing to reevaluate their marriage. After counseling, the case is taken to court, and the divorce settlement is purely for the divorce – it won’t include other disputes like custody of a child, money settlements and so on. If there is no cooperation from both sides, it can take a really long time – up to a year, if not longer.
Can’t pay back
Question: I borrowed KD 3,000 from a family member and I promised to pay them back within a few months. Now I cannot afford to pay it back. They keep texting me saying they will sue me. What can I do?
Fajer: Honestly, the best way to deal with this is to speak to them and try and negotiate another scenario – maybe paying a small amount every month or getting an extension. Whatever you agree on, make sure you do so in writing. This is not legal advice, but I would like to give it anyway because I have seen things from my experience working at my law firm and dealing with clients with such issues. Do not let money get in the way of family or friends or other fruitful relationships, and always, always, have things in writing, even if it is between friends or family.
The two statements may seem to be contradictory, but they are there to protect you. Always forgive. I know I have moved away from speaking only legally, but it is just that I have seen a family fight over money and the brother is determined to put his sisters in jail for not paying him back the amounts they borrowed that they cannot afford to repay. Situations sometimes get out of hand when it comes to the law, and I felt the need to speak about it publicly.
Question: When we first married, I was told that I will receive dowry from my husband and also a payment of money should we get divorced. Is this right?
Fajer: This depends on what you agreed upon when you got married. This should be stated clearly on your marriage certificate. For example, let’s say you agreed to KD 1,000 as dowry and another KD 1,000 should you get divorced. These amounts are to be paid by the husband to his wife. If your husband did not pay you, you can file a lawsuit to obtain these amounts. Please note that this is a separate case altogether – separate from the divorce, therefore most lawyers will charge extra fees to do so.
Twice as much
Question: We are a Kuwaiti family. Is it true that men get twice as much as women when it comes to inheritance? How can we avoid this? How is this fair?
Fajer: This is true for children or for brothers and sisters. A brother will receive twice as much as a sister. Although this is by law, lawyers can assist parents who would like their children to have approximately equal amounts by legal procedures that they can do prior to death to ensure that when they pass away, their daughters/sons will receive a fair share of the inheritance. Many Muslim scholars say that although there is no equality between the two genders under law when it comes to inheritance, it is still fair, because by law, a man is required to take full responsibility of his family financially, including his wife.
So, if a grandparent passes away and has two sons and two daughters, the wealth will be divided into three parts – one for each son, and one part to be shared by the two daughters. The daughters though will not have to share this amount with their children, whereas the man should share the amount with his wife and children.
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By Attorney Fajer Ahmed