In an effort to stop men from ending their marriages without telling their wives, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Justice has announced that they will be sending text message notifications to inform women of their new divorce status.
Saudi Arabia is one of the few remaining jurisdictions that permits a husband to divorce his wife without her knowledge or consent.
The Saudi Ministry of Justice released a statement that the text notifications are “a step aimed at protecting the rights of female clients, and enhancing digital transformation with more services.” The text message will also provide the newly divorced woman with a divorce certificate number and the name of the relevant court where she can pick up the documentation of her divorce. CNN reports that there is even a website where women can “inquire about their marital status”.
Practical Implications: In Canada, a wife cannot seek spousal support where there exists a valid foreign judgment dealing with the divorce. If a woman residing in Canada is divorced in Saudi Arabia without her knowledge or consent, with no spousal support provided in the divorce judgment, what will her options be? As shown in the case of Zhang v. Lin, 2010 AQBQ 420, the Canadian courts would need to find that the foreign divorce judgment would not be recognized in Canada as it is contrary to Canadian public policy (ie. no remedy of spousal support available), thereby allowing the claim for spousal support. It is also important to note, as stated in Beals v. Saldanha, 2003 SCC 72, that the defence of public policy has a narrow application, making this defence applicable in very limited circumstances.