In pop culture, there’s a well-known saying which goes like this, “Who runs the world? It’s girls”.
But when it comes to girls or women asking for their rights, the world becomes suspiciously silent. The ones who do speak up are labeled as Feminists. Rebels. Troublemakers. These are women who are struggling for their fair and equal share of rights. The right to equality at work, the right to equal pay, the right to choose a spouse of their liking, the right to wear clothes of their choice and the list of battles goes on.
However, in the context of the Indian Judiciary system, the popular opinion seems to be that our law mostly favors women.
Tanmay Shrungarkar is a close friend who is going through a tough time since he’s separating from his wife of 5 years. However, when it came to the settlement of all affairs, he said, “While my wife and I do not get along anymore, there are certain things that I cannot deny her, which by law are solely hers to claim.”
Kiran Mhatre, a seasoned attorney, explains them as below –
“A woman’s first and foremost right is to her Stree Dhan. Which means any jewellery, money, gifts that were gifted to her by her parents, her in-laws and any relatives during the wedding are indisputably hers and hers alone.
Apart from this, if the couple has children; then the first right of custody will always go to the mother. In case she is incapable of handling the children due to illness or is unwilling to take charge, only then will the court grant custody to the father.
Lastly and most importantly, she can ask for maintenance and/or alimony depending on her financial situation.”
This statement can be broken into 3 broad aspects for better clarity. So let’s take one piece at a time.
A juxtaposition of two words – Stree meaning woman in the Hindi language while Dhan implies wealth. All the wealth gifted to the Stree before, during and after marriage is solely owned by the wife.
This is one of the most fundamental rights that the woman can seek during divorce. If the couple has a child who is a minor, i.e. under the age of 5, then the custody irrevocably goes to the mother.
Depending on the financial situation of the father and the mother – the court will ask the father to provide monthly support for the child till the child reaches an age where he can support himself which is usually 18 -21 years.
The last but most important right that a woman needs to know about is alimony. Be it mutual or one-sided divorce, the woman has the right to ask for alimony from the husband.
She can either opt for a one-time settlement. Or she can ask for monthly or yearly maintenance along with permanent alimony and division of joint assets.
Can a working woman demand alimony?
If the woman in question is a working woman and draws a salary which is substantially lower than the husband’s income, she will still be granted alimony to provide for the same living standards as her husband’s. If the woman is a homemaker and has no source of income, the court will consider the woman’s age, her educational qualifications, her ability to earn to finalize the amount of the alimony.
Alimony and Child Support – One and the same?
A crucial point to be remembered is that alimony is over and above the child support payment that she will receive from the husband. If the woman has an income, then she will also have to provide for the child in proportion to her income.
India being a secular state has many laws divided into subsets as per the practicing religion of the couple. While applying for divorce, it is wise to ask your lawyers for the various reforms and regulations that need to be kept in mind if you are Hindu, Muslim or Christian.
In conclusion, divorces are messy affairs for both parties, but there are certain rights that a woman must ask Haq Se without fear of retribution or refusal. The Indian Law not only supports but also ensures that the woman gets her rightful due.