Blog, stories and articles on personal issues and challenges faced by South Asians and Non Resident Indians (NRIs)

Legally divorced abroad yet married in India

HYDERABAD: After three years of banging doors at each other, it was time for Prakash to end his marriage, or so he thought. Stationed at Chicago on a work permit, Prakash realised just how hassle free ending his marriage would be in a foreign court where all he had to do was cite “irretrievable breakdown of marriage’’, a clause only being considered to be introduced in the Hindu Marriage Act. So while Prakash got the divorce decree, his shocked wife decided she wouldn’t take away the Mrs from her name so easily.

So, she came back home to Hyderabad and moved the local family court seeking that the Chicago court verdict be declared null and void. And she succeeded by virtue of the fact that foreign divorces are not considered valid in India unless the grounds and proceedings are in compliance with the Indian law. Also the verdict needs to be validated in India.

However, it is not a tangible victory. For, while the wife got her Mrs tag back, Prakash continues to live in Chicago as a ‘single, divorced male’. In legal speak, his marital status swings between married and separated, but socially he is back in the groom market looking at giving life a second chance.

Hundreds of nautical miles from Chicago, another Indian couple settled in Singapore decided to call it quits just that the wife was not quite ready, like in the Chicago case. Unwilling to accept the verdict, the wife came to India to get her divorce declared null and void. With a judgment in her favour now, declaring them to be still married, she is currently awaiting the execution of the court order. “If both husband and wife agree for a divorce even in foreign land, they can get it by dissolving the marriage under the provisions of the concerned marriage act. But in cases where one of the partners does not want a divorce, a petition seeking to get it declared null and void can be filed here,” said Anita Jain, family court advocate.

And this has resulted in creating a rare marital status: legally divorced abroad but married in India. Lawyers say that when individuals get married in India as per any Indian form of marriage, then the dissolution of the same should also happen through the Indian family court which has jurisdiction over the place where the marriage was solemnised. It could also be resolved in the family court which has jurisdiction over where they last stayed together. Thus, it becomes possible for couples to seek separation even when they are abroad, just that it takes a wrong direction when one of them does not consent to the separation.

But even a reversed separation decree has failed to yield much for the disgruntled women in both the mentioned cases. In case of the Singapore couple, for instance, the husband though still married to his wife as ruled by the local family court in Hyderabad, has gone ahead and tied the knot again.

So whatever happens to the Mrs after she wins this court battle? The woman with a nullified foreign divorce decree in hand can claim a share in the husband’s property and also slap charges of dowry harassment and similar sections on the man, one reason why women continue to demand that divorces be declared null and void. “It has happened in a few cases. The woman has refused to drop her married tag to be able to claim her husband’s property and also ensure that he cannot visit India with pending cases against his name,” says Anita Jain.

In another case, however, the aggrieved wife who got the divorce declared null and void at the Secunderabad court is now trying that the orders be served to her husband in the US. She is also trying for bigamy charges to be pressed against her husband. Not only is the process long drawn, it is almost impractical to assume that a local court summons would be binding on a person settled or working abroad

NRI DivorceŽ 2006-2010