Property laws for women getting a divorce

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Consider these statistics. While India is considered to have reported the least number of divorces in the world till date, there has been a drastic rise in the same-amounting to doubles and triples- in Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Lucknow in the past 5 years.

According to a Hindustan Times report, 8347 divorce cases were filed in Kolkata in 2014 (by November 30), which is a 350% increase from the 2,388 divorce cases in 2003.

Divorce

Reason for marriage failures

While incompatibility is just one of the reasons, there are several others that lead to a broken marriage. Apart from the waning influence of a family and joint family, the growing psychologican and economical independence of a woman, and late marriages leading to reluctence to compromise or change lifestyle.

Women's claims on divorce

These days women are aware of their rights in the society and can be seen fighting for the same. However, very few know their rights even after separation. Here are certain things thta one should keep in mind while claiming one's rights.

According to the MARRIED WOMEN'S PROPERTY ACT, 1874 (Act No. 3 of, 1874), here are the following things that one should keep in mind:

Earnings of married women are their separate property

The in-laws or the husband have no right over the earnings of a woman, be it acquired, earned or gifted during her marriage or after. This also includes earnings from a business, occupation or trade carried on by her and not her husband.

All savings from and investment of wages, earning and property, deem to be her property even after divorce.

Right to 'Streedhan': A woman should be given all her jewellery that she had acquired during marriage from her relatives and the ones that were given to her in-laws after marriage. There are strict Streedhan laws and the grooms' side may face stringent action under Section 405 & 406 of the Indian Penal Code, if they deny returning wealth when claimed.

In a particular case of Rashmi Kumar versus Mahesh Kumar Bhada, the Supreme Court said that when a wife entrusts all her Streedhan to her husband or her in laws for safe keeping and if they willfully misappropriate or convert to their own use, they commit criminal breach of trust. And even if he is using it for illness, monetary problems, he should be returning it to her.

A woman's right to her Streedhan is protected under law. S. 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956 R/w S. 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 make a female Hindu an absolute owner of such property.

In such cases, the court suggests the following measures to protect the Stree Dhan:

The woman should make a list of all the gifts and properties received before, during and after marriage from her family, husband's family, friends and other acquaintances.
The woman should keep evidence for all the gifts received such as wedding pictures. Also, ensure that the gifts and their bills are in her name and preserve these bills.
The woman should have witnesses - statements of witnesses will be important evidence - for gifts of movables (including jewellery) at the time of marriage.
The woman should maintain a separate account in her name for her salary.
The woman should get involved in the family financial decision-making and keep a record of bank accounts and the investments made out of her Streedhan.
The woman should ensure that the title to the property given to her and those bought from her Streedhan are clear and that the investments made from these assets are in her name.
The woman should open a bank locker in her name for storing jewellery and instruments of money, property and so on.
It is advisable for the woman's parents to gift her income-generating property, rather than expensive consumer items. It becomes often difficult to give full detail accounts for the consumer items.

women

Policy insurance by self or husband: A woman has full rights on the policies made by her or by her husband who made them for her future benefits.

Wife' responsibility to nuptial debts: In case the wife possesses a separate property and has entered into a contract with a person on the faith that her obligation arising out of such contract will be satisfied out of her separate property. Such person will be entitled to sue her and to the extent of her new property.

She will have no right to sell the property. Moreover, the husband will not contract the debts of the wife while buying the property.

[Read: How to apply for Marriage Certificate in India: Your complete guide]

The husband is not liable for any of her debts accrued before marriage unless he had knowingly partaken into the financial liabilities.

While a lot of the above-mentioned laws are being misused these days, there are very few laws to protect men post separation. However, appeal for amendments are being made in preserving the rights of men in the Indian constitution. 

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