This was a common perception of the Indian Judiciary system in our Hindi films during the 80s and 90s. Are court proceedings in the context of divorce as lengthy and draining in the present day? Let’s find out.
A 2017 report by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) mentions that India has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world. But does that imply that Indians are better at making marriages work or do we simply stick it out? Considering the number of couples we may all know who are stuck in unhappy marriages, the answer is likely to be the latter.
India’s low divorce rate is an indicator of the stigma that surrounds it and not a positive sign at all. The “Pati parmeshwar hota hai” and “Janam janam ka saath; till death do us apart” is so deeply ingrained in our subconscious that divorce is still a subject of humiliation to the concerned parties and their families rather than a logical way out of a failed/unhappy marriage. Add to this the cost of a long-drawn legal proceeding hampered by a range of unsolicited and often impractical advice that pours in from “concerned well-wishers”, and you get the adequate reasons to just ride it out. But if you’ve decided to part ways, then here is a comprehensive guide on what needs to be done.
Keep calm and seek professional help!
“As per the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 – A divorce in India is divided into two categories. The first is Non-Mutual/One-Sided/Contested Divorce wherein one partner decides to file for divorce. The second is Consensual/Mutual Divorce wherein both partners actively seek divorce and file the application jointly. Apart from these two, there is no other way of obtaining a divorce otherwise.” says Kiran Mhatre, a prominent Mumbai lawyer who has handled multiple divorce cases in his 30-year long career.
Section 13 – Non-Mutual / Contested Divorce is sought when one partner has been subjected to the following by the spouse, and the spouse is averse to an amicable parting.
Section 13 B – Divorce by Mutual Consent is sought when both partners have no grievances towards each other and are willing to see this separation through in a mature and businesslike manner.
If it’s a mutual divorce, then the proceedings leading up to the final decision can take up to one year for the court to pass the decree, provided both parties do not miss any hearing dates. If one hearing is missed, then the court grants another date after 1 to 6 months which can cause a delay in the divorce.
If the divorce is non-consensual, then the proceedings can go on for years, depending upon the problems based on which the divorce application was filed. The more complex the issues, the more time it takes for both parties to come to a decision which is agreeable to both parties. Such cases have no time limit.
Avani Saxena, a media professional who’s been divorced, has a practical point of view on this topic – “Indian Judiciary is known for its lengthy proceedings which can drain your finances and your energies. In most urban cases while the divorce may have started out as non-consensual, both parties quickly realize that it’s convenient to settle on an agreement out of court or resolve it by agreeing to terms which are marginally disadvantageous to both sides. It saves a lot of distress in the long run.”
The cost of obtaining a divorce depends on various factors from lawyer fees to court hearings to out of court settlements. The longer the process, the costlier it is. As an estimate, it can range anywhere between INR 20,000 to 5 lakhs and above.
Be it mutual or contested divorce, the realization that help is available and can be accessed is important. The thought of filing for one doesn’t make you the “bad one” in the relationship. It makes you the rational one who wants to close one unproductive circle before it becomes an infinite loop.