Family Law-- Matrimonial Dispute

Laws Governing Matrimonial Disputes The disputes that take place between the married couple, relating to issues that arise out of the practices and customs of marriage, are known as matrimonial disputes. These issues include withdrawal from the other’s society without reasonable cause, mental illness at the time of marriage, desertion of the spouse for a continuous period of 2 years etc., which result in different remedies, such as restitution of conjugal rights, annulment or divorce. There are many types of reliefs available to couples suffering from matrimonial problems, which include restitution of conjugal rights, judicial separation etc. Restitution of Conjugal Rights If either spouse has, without reasonable cause, withdrawn from the society of the other, the aggrieved spouse can approach the court for restitution of conjugal rights. This enforces the rights that derive from the wedded state of the couple. The court would expect the explanation of the defence of ‘reasonable cause’ from the defendant. Annulment When either spouse makes an application to nullify the marriage, certain grounds have to exist. It is a procedure by which a marriage is nullified in that it is declared to have never existed at all. It is usually difficult to prove and not many cases have granted annulment as a remedy. However, it covers a range of situations, such as: Either party was already married to someone at the time of marriage The parties are not Sapindas of each other The parties are not within the degrees of prohibited relationship Dissolution Before the codification of Hindu marriage laws, the position on dissolution of marriages was very rigid and did not allow dissolution except under certain specified grounds. However, after independence, the law provided for a few grounds on which a marriage could be legally dissolved. The procedure for doing so is known as a divorce. A case for Judicial Separation would look into grounds of a similar nature to that of a case for divorce. But legal separation only entails physical separation for some time and does not change the married status of the parties. This is not the case with a divorce, where if a couple gets divorced, and intend to get back together, they must remarry. Divorce: Divorce is the procedure for dissolution of the marriage. If a couple or one of the parties feels that their marriage is over for reasons of desertion, adultery, bigamy or others as specified in the Act, they may approach the court to grant them a divorce. A divorce is a momentous proceeding and it results in many upheavals in the married life of the parties. Consequent to a divorce, there are other issues such as custody of the children and maintenance to the dependents, such as the wife and children. Maintenance in Hindu Law Maintenance is an ancillary relief – in that it does not arise independently, but will be granted along with and as a consequence of relief such as divorce, custody, redressal of domestic violence. Under Hindu Law, the wife has an absolute right to claim maintenance from her husband. But she loses her right if she deviates from the path of chastity. Her right to maintenance is provided for in the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. In assessing the amount of maintenance, the court takes into account various factors like position and liabilities of the husband. It also judges whether the wife is justified in living apart from husband. What is ‘justifiable’ is determined by reasons spelt out in the Act. Maintenance pendente lite (pending the suit) and even expenses of a matrimonial suit will be borne by either, husband or wife, if the other spouse has no independent income for his or her support. The same principle will govern payment of permanent maintenance. The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 recognizes the right of the wife to maintenance-both alimony pendente lite and permanent alimony. The maximum amount that can be decreed by court as alimony during the time a matrimonial suit is pending in court, is one-fifth of the husband’s net income. In fixing the quantum as permanent maintenance, the court will determine what is just, bearing in mind the ability of husband to pay, own assets of wife and conduct of the parties. The order will remain in force as long as wife remains chaste and unmarried. The Indian Divorce Act, 1869 inter alia governs maintenance rights of a Christian wife. The provisions are the same as those under the Parsi law and the same considerations are applied in granting maintenance, both alimony pendente lite and permanent maintenance.

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