Financial neglect blamed for Oman's rising divorce rate

Abuse, infidelity, abuse and Covid-19 lockdown also cited by experts after 8 per cent increase

C5M2WY Divorce agreement. Alex Stojanov / Alamy Stock Photo
Powered by automated translation

More than 4,000 marriages in Oman ended in divorce last year, an increase of 8 per cent from 2021.

The National Centre for Statistics and Information said there were 4,160 divorces in 2022, up from 3,837 in the previous year.

The Muscat governorate had the highest number (977), followed by Dhofar (786), North Batinah (666), and South Batinah (476).

Most cases involved Omani couples (3,682), while divorce among expatriate couples was markedly lower at 182 cases.

Experts say they have heard a range of reasons but financial concerns are key.

“I've personally handled numerous divorce cases and related settlements, and I've noticed a significant increase in such cases at my law firm,” said Reem Al Zadjali, founder of Reem Al Zadjali Lawyers & Legal Consultants in Oman.

“The reasons for divorce cases are multifaceted … from issues like infidelity, financial strains where women may assume more financial responsibilities, to personality mismatches that make cohabitation difficult.”

The Omani government has made a commitment to empower women and provide them with equal opportunities, which some say may be a cause for the rise in cases.

“The increasing financial independence of women allows them the freedom to address these problems and seek divorce when necessary,” said Ms Al Zadjali.

Statistics also revealed a 20 per cent fall in marriages in 2022 (15,400), compared to 2021 (19,294,).

“In recent years, Oman has witnessed a dramatic increase in divorce rates, primarily attributed to three core factors: financial strain, infidelity, and verbal/mental abuse,” said Dr Hanan J Whelan Al Said, senior therapist at the Oasis of Hope Counselling Centre.

Dr Al Said, who has worked in education and psychology in Oman, the United Kingdom and South-east Asia for close to three decades, said this recent surge underscores the importance of careful consideration and preparation before entering into marriage.

She said the Covid-19 lockdown was also a challenge as couples were forced to spend time together.

“The pandemic also contributed to a substantial rise in divorces. Monitoring this trend over the next two to five years will reveal whether it stabilises or continues to evolve.”

'Commitment and care'

“I was married at 22 and divorced by 29. I asked for a divorce from my husband, mainly because he didn't fulfil his financial responsibilities,” said Salha, a 30-year-old Omani citing neglect as a primary reason.

“He left me to take on the role traditionally attributed to men. A woman desires commitment and care. I should receive care to be able to give it back,” said the mother of one.

Owais Al Balushi, 34, said the pandemic affected his marriage, leaving him and his wife separated and with poor channels of communication.

“I got married in 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic. The ceremony took place in Pakistan, after which I stayed there for a while and then came back to Oman,” he said.

“Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions [my wife] was not able to join me in Oman. My marriage lasted for a year and nine months and during that time I observed that she was heavily influenced by her mother which led to misunderstanding between the two of us.”

Maturity is key

Experts urged couples to think it through when it comes to both marriage and divorce.

“It's important for couples to explore ways of reconciliation to make their relationship work before contemplating divorce when kids are involved,” said Ms Al Zadjali.

'Often, involving relatives or seeking the guidance of a marriage counsellor, along with dedicating quality time for open communication, can be instrumental in this process.”

Updated: September 29, 2023, 10:46 AM