A mutual way out of incompatibility
For IT couples Supriya and Sumit, (names changed on request), it took just six months to come out of a marriage. No blame game, no mud-slinging, no amusement for curious neighbours, no hefty lawyer fees and, above all, no agonised wait for years for a legal separation. Thanks to the option of mutual consent divorces that is increasingly being preferred by young couples nowadays. In January 2011 alone, lawyers say, the city family court got around 40 such petitions for divorce by mutual settlement.
Calling it a relatively recent trend, family court lawyer Anita Shalabh Jain said, “Instead of the usual mud-slinging, accusations, counter-accusations and delayed legal separation that usually happens in case of a one-party divorce, most young, educated couples now prefer this amicable mode of separation, which spares them unpleasantness and mental trauma.”
As Supriya S. says, “My husband and I felt why part with hatred and anger? After all, we had once loved each other. Ours was an inter-community marriage. But since we both felt we can no longer live under the same roof and day-to-day life had soured, we thought let’s separate peacefully and speedily, without creating an ugly court scene. Both of us have started life afresh with our new partners, and even now Sumit and I are on cordial terms.”
Lawyers say that in single party petition, the onus is on the spouse filing for divorce to prove any of the grounds for divorce like cruelty, desertion, changing religion and adultery. Usually, the cases go to criminal courts under IPC 498A (dowry harassment), and then follows the demand for maintenance and alimony. These cases drag on for years, which is traumatic for most couples.
Take the case of Mr Pranit Kumar (name changed), whose divorce case is pending since 2004 and he doesn’t see any hope in the near future of starting a new life. “Being falsely charged for dowry harassment, adultery, domestic violence and other charges, rushing every month to different courts as the jurisdiction of the various charges were different, being socially sidelined, I am emotionally and financially drained out. Though 498A was quashed, my wife wasn’t satisfied with the maintenance amount and got a stay order from the High Court in 2009. So, now the case is pending with the HC and since the appeal period isn’t over, my wife may even appeal to the Supreme Court. So, it has been a never-ending agonising time for me for the past eight years.”
“But under section 13B of the Hindu Marriage Act, both the husband and wife can file petitions for mutual consent divorce. Before filing the petition, the couple must be staying separately for at least a year or two years if it’s a Christian marriage,” said High Court advocate Mr Giridhar Rao.
Lawyers say that divorce is granted after six-months citing that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, and that the spouses don’t have any right on each other’s property or person, he said. However, since family courts were established to bring the partners together by counseling them, all efforts are taken to first counsel the husband and wife by family court counselors as well as lawyers. Sometimes, couples also patch up, especially if there’s a child in the picture, informed lawyers. Going by the trend, the day may not be far away when like many Japanese couples, who throw a post divorce party, separated Indian couples too will celebrate their divorce as a token of amicable farewell to their marriage.