An American nurse involved in a long divorce battle in Saudi Arabia, and claims authorities have consistently discriminated against her because she is a foreign woman, is getting a quick lesson on who pays for temporary housing costs in the desert kingdom.
Teresa Malof, 51, says she has been mistreated in her attempts to divorce her ex-husband Mazen al-Mubarak, the father to her three children. Malof, who is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, married al-Mubarak in 2000 and filed for divorce in 2015. While the divorce was approved, the settlement is now bogged down in the courts and entering its fifth year.
al-Mubarak, the son of Saudi Arabia’s former ambassador to Qatar, has used his wife’s unfamiliarity with the Saudi legal system and inability to speak Arabic to turn the tables against her, she told Insider.
The most obvious injustice, in Malof’s view, is that al-Mubarak lived alone in a house in Riyadh for many years, for which she paid the mortgage of $2,831 a month for years while he lived in it alone.
According to Insider, which has reviewed official Saudi court documents, the court documents confirm that she launched legal proceedings to evict her ex-husband, made payments for the house while he lived there, and that she submitted formal complaints about the judge’s conduct.
It came to a head in August 2018 when she broke into her house and changed the locks while al-Mubarak was abroad, she said. Malof claimed that recently the judge in her case abruptly annulled her divorce, making her technically married again. Malof contends that the judge did not have the power to do this.
“I just want it to be finished,” Malof told Insider. “Foreign women are discriminated against here in the courts.”
The US Embassy in Riyadh confirmed to Insider that it was assisting Malof. US Embassy press attaché Peter Brown said: “We are aware of the case and providing appropriate consular services. Due to pending legal proceedings, we have nothing further to share.”
Florida Divorce Housing Costs
I’ve written about the marital house during a divorce before. In a dissolution of marriage, temporary alimony can be awarded so that the home mortgage is paid for. Each party’s sources of income and ability to pay are factors to be considered in determining whether alimony is appropriate, and if so, in what amounts.
There are a few other issues when it comes to housing in divorce:
Until a divorce parenting plan in place, if you are interested in maintaining a meaningful relationship in your child’s life, leaving the home before a timesharing agreement is entered may show a lack of real interest in the child’s daily life.
Moving out can create the appearance of a new ‘primary residential parent’ by default. Worse, if the process takes a long time, it creates a new status quo.
The person leaving during a divorce may still have to contribute for the expenses of the home while also paying for a new home. It can be costly, and prohibitive expensive when you know that the process will take a long time.
Staying in the same home could create an incentive to negotiate a final settlement because living with your soon to be ex-spouse is very uncomfortable. However, if someone moves out, the person remaining in the home is sitting pretty and may be less inclined to settle.
Fold Up the Tent?
Malof told Insider that her house, in the al-Khozama district of Riyadh, was part of the agreement when the two split. She said al-Mubarak agreed to pay for $183,000 for it, but has yet to produce the money. Malof has been prevented from selling the house by the judge’s decision to freeze the deed at the request of al-Mubarak. Malof has compiled a wide-ranging list of grievances against the court.
She claims that the judge has held court hearings without her knowledge, has omitted evidence from court minutes, has refused to give her an interpreter, credited her with making statements that she never uttered, and has met with al-Mubarak separately behind closed doors.
Malof says she was not informed of hearings on April 11, June 25, and September 5 last year. The last of these, she says, was the one where the judge froze the deed on her house, blocking her from selling it. Malof told Insider that the judge “has put several times in the minutes that there is an ‘agreement’ between me and al-Mubarak and the house is shared, which is not true.” Minutes are the formal legal record of how a case is progressing.
The case follows that of Bethany Vierra, a US citizen who became trapped in Saudi Arabia by the Kingdom’s guardianship laws in March, and later lost custody of her child when her ex-husband used images of her in a bikini to show she was unfit to parent.
Malof’s and Vierra’s stories highlight the reality for non-Saudis under their legal system, which is based on the Qur’an, which contains God’s revelations to the Prophet Muhammad, and the Sunnah, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad.
In some cases, evidence submitted to court is invalid unless witnessed by two Muslim men.
Malof was given an attorney by the Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission at first, but has now hired her own, Hazim al-Madani. “I have lived in this country for more than twenty years” she told Insider. “Going public and talking badly about Saudi Arabia has never been my goal. However, what choice do I have?”
The Insider article is here.