Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Step Parents in Egyptian Culture

Wow. Over 100 hits on the blog in the last 8 hours - Thanks Visa Journey and ExpatGroups.com. Nice sites to visit by the way if you have questions about immigration.

An interesting point has been raised recently due to some comments on another post. Step-parents. When a divorced man or divorced woman with children remarries, his or her new spouse becomes a step-parent to the existing children. Well in most cases.

But let's look at this from an Egyptian (or Middle-eastern Islamic) perspective. In Islam, when a couple divorces the mother remains the primary caretaker of the male children until they turn six years of age and the females until age 12. After which time the father gains full and often physical custody of the children. While divorce is quite common in the Middle-east today, especially in Egypt, the concept of step-families is slightly different than it is in the West. Because of family ties and Sharia laws regarding inheritance, culturally speaking, it is harder for men to form strong bonds of attachment and loyalty with children who are not biologically their own.

In the West it is not uncommon for small children to start calling their mother's new husband "daddy". However, in Egyptian culture, it would be considered disrespectful to call another man your father. It would be more common for the children to call their mother's new husband "uncle" or a similar term that shows respect for elders.

In Egypt, it is less common for a father to lose any of his rights than it is in the United States.


Since many of my readers are Egyptian or involved with Egyptians - I want to know what you think about this subject.

If you are Egyptian how would you handle this situation if you were divorced and remarried?

Men, would you allow your children to call your ex-wife's new husband daddy?

If you married a woman who had children would you want them to call you daddy?

Women, would you encourage your children to call your new husband daddy?

Would your new husband ever replace their biological father in any aspect of the children's lives?


  1. What Islam and Egyptian law have to say about custody of children in the case of divorce has nearly no bearing on the reality of what is practiced. I don't think I have ever met any child of divorcees who were doing it the way they were supposed to. Often the child stays with the mother after she remarries and that is NOT supposed to happen. In other cases, the child stayed with the father from the beginning, and that is NOT supposed to happen either.

  2. Oh, and you are SO wrong about the father NOT losing his rights in Egypt. By Egyptian law custody goes to the mother and if they child wants it, that custody can remain permanent. The father's ONLY right under the law is to see the child 3 hours a week in a supervised public setting. He must provide the child and the mother with a home to live in and financial support, but has no right to spend time with his children in a natural setting. That only changes if the mother remarries.

  3. I read an article long time ago that said the mother has custody of daughters till she's 18 yrs and boys till -I think- he's 15. That's the Egyptian law. Also have read few articles where fathers complain lack of their rights in Egypt, some mothers can prevent fathers from ever even seeing his children and there's not much he can do about it. Sure there is law against alienation but we all know how long court cases last and then there no resources to see that court's rulings are observed.

  4. Thanks for the above comments. This is exactly why I wanted to open this up for comments because what we read about Islam and what is actually happening are 2 different things. I think often times with countries like Egypt, that do not like to publish statistics, it becomes difficult to find out exactly what the cases are. Also like the first poster said - what is supposed to be happening is not.

    Foreign women especially, are being frightened by people who will tell them "the father has all the rights in Islam and if you get divorced you will lose your children".

    I think another problem is the generalization of Islamic information that might pertain to Saudi for example, but be very different in interpretation and application in a country such as Egypt. So people may be easily led to believe that things happening in Saudi or Yemen are similar to what happens in Egypt or UAE because they are both "Islamic countries".

    We know that women have very different rights in these countries so it would only stand to reason that divorce and child custody is handled differently as well.

  5. @ comment #2:

    What I was talking about regarding rights was not things like visitation. I was referring more to losing rights through the child being adopted by another man.

    There have been cases in the US where women have petitioned the courts to terminate the man's rights entirely and allow her new husband to adopt the child. Granted the father was probably not doing his part emotionally and financially in order for it to come to this point.

    But how common is it in Egypt for a mother to go to the court and say "XXX is a crappy father who has not paid child support or seen his children in 1 year. I want my new husband to adopt my son and become his legal father."