Marriage and divorce law in Morocco is built around the Moudawana. This family code has been in existence since the 1950s and it governs marriage, divorce, child custody, maintenance and the division of assets.
Historically, marriage and divorce in Morocco has always been in the hands of men. However, increasing pressure from civil and women’s rights groups prompted changes to the laws in the early 2000s, meaning that women now have many more rights under family law then before.
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Divorce laws in Morocco
Morocco first adopted the Moudawana in 1958, two years after it gained independence from France. This code covers all areas of family law including marriage and divorce. For many years it gave few rights to women despite the important role they played in Moroccan family life.
Under the Moudawana, men could take second wives without their wives’ consent and could unilaterally divorce any of their wives. Women were not permitted to marry without legal approval, and the right to divorce was highly restricted.
In October 2003, King Mohammed VI announced sweeping changes to the law, and the new Moudawana code came into force in 2004. It included several important rights for women including:
- The right to divorce
- Child custody rights
- Raising the legal age of marriage from 15 to 18
- Making sexual harassment punishable under the law
- Removing a father’s right to compel his daughter into marriage.
Divorce law in Morocco is now considered one of the most progressive in the Arab world. Now, both men and women can start divorce proceedings in Morocco, and proceedings take place in court rather than in front of religious officials.
Under the divorce laws in Morocco, couples are encouraged to undertake mediation or reconciliation before a divorce is granted. A man can no longer unilaterally divorce as he now requires the permission of the court.
Women have the right to petition for divorce on grounds including:
- A husband not fulfilling his marriage obligations
The 2004 code also introduced the right to divorce by mutual consent.
Note that although the law states that the minimum marriage age is now 18, 2010 Ministry of Justice data showed that judges granted permission for the marriage of minors in about 90 per cent of the cases that they heard.
Child custody arrangements after divorce in Morocco
On divorce, custody of children is generally awarded to the mother, although this is more due to custom than to law. Priority in terms of child custody goes first to the mother, then the father, then the maternal grandmother, or to whoever the court decides is the most qualified relative.
If you gain custody of your child, you have to provide ‘suitable accommodation’ for them. The parent who is awarded custody will generally keep any marital home.
Morocco is a recent signatory to the Hague Convention on Child Abduction. This means that if your child is taken out of Morocco without your consent and taken to another Hague Convention country, you can apply to a local agency for the safe return of your child.
It also means that if your child is taken to Morocco without your consent, you can apply for their safe return.
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