To put it simply, divorce is so expensive in India because divorce is still quite uncommon in the country and because there’s a very limited number of divorce lawyers available.
Divorce in India is also quite complicated; both marriages and divorces are regulated according to the religion of the husband and wife.
There are even statutes covering interfaith, intercaste, and civil marriages.
Therefore, when going through a divorce, it’s imperative that you have a lawyer who’s very knowledgeable and experienced in all facets of marriage laws in India, especially the ones pertaining to you.
Table of Contents
- What are the main types of divorce in India?
- How much does divorce cost?
- Can anybody get a divorce in India?
- When did divorce become legal in India?
- Which religion has the strictest rules when it comes to marriage and divorce?
- Is an annulment also possible?
- What happens when the husband and wife are of different nationalities?
- On what grounds can someone file for divorce?
- Can I file for divorce in India without a lawyer?
In India, there are two main types of divorce: mutual and contested. A mutual divorce is when both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, while a contested divorce is when the spouses can’t mutually agree on the divorce terms.
Because mutual divorces tend to be faster and more straightforward than contested divorces, they’re usually less costly.
Mutual divorces typically only involve two court hearings, making for a relatively quick and painless process.
A spouse might file for a contested divorce if their spouse doesn’t give consent to divorce. In this case, the spouse who wants a divorce has to file a divorce petition and prove that their marriage isn’t working.
Unlike most mutual divorces, contested divorces can involve several extended court battles, and the entire process can last for years.
The cost of a divorce depends on many factors, including location, lawyer experience, the severity of the divorce, and the length of the divorce process.
If the spouses are amicable and agree to the terms of the divorce, the divorce will cost less. Divorce lawyers’ fees depend on their success rate and experience.
Most established lawyers tend to charge higher rates. Also, lawyers in different locations, say, Mumbai and New Delhi generally charge more than lawyers in Kochi or Chennai.
The bulk of divorce fees go to the lawyers, and divorce charges for mutual divorces can range from INR 15,000 (about 200 USD) to INR 30,000 (400 USD), depending on the experience and reputation of your lawyer.
Despite the growing rate of divorce in India, the country still has one of the lowest divorce rates in the world.
The two biggest possible reasons are the widely held stigma attached to divorce and the high cost of going through the process.
Simply put, many Indians can’t afford a divorce and the majority of divorce cases occur among the rich and educated.
This is possibly due to the fact that these people tend to be more exposed to other countries and cultures where divorce rates are higher.
In India, a predominantly conservative society, divorce is still strongly stigmatized. Although both men and women are negatively impacted by this stigma, women are usually more strongly affected.
However, thanks to the influences of pop culture and social media, Indians’ perceptions towards divorce are slowly but surely evolving.
The Indian Divorce Act, which governs divorce among Christian couples in India, was enacted in 1869.
Since then, other marriage and divorce acts have been drafted into the legal system, including the Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 (for Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains), the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act of 1939 (for Muslims), and the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act of 1936 (for Parsis).
There’s also the Special Marriage Act of 1956, which governs intercommunity and civil marriages, and the Foreign Marriage Act of 1969, which covers marriages between Indian nationals and foreigners.
The marriage and divorce acts mentioned above share many of the same features. They all recognize the husband as the head of the household.
And, in each act, the wife is, in essence, considered the man’s property, the man is considered the natural guardian of the couple’s children, and there are different standards for the man and the woman when it comes to property ownership and sexual morality.
For every 1,000 Hindus that have married, 2 of them are divorced, and for every 1,000 married Muslims, 3.7 are divorced.
Although there are no publicly available divorce statistics for Sikhs, Jains, and Parsis, the combined rate of separation and divorce among Christians and Buddhists is nearly 50% higher than Muslims and Hindus.
In every religion, separation is more common than divorce. This should come as no surprise given the cost and complexity of the divorce process in India.
In short, yes, annulments are possible. However, they’re very rarely granted, and this usually only happens under very specific circumstances.
Annulment is a procedure that declares a marriage null and void. Except in cases of bigamy (going through a marriage ceremony while being married to another individual) and failing to meet the minimum age requirement to get married, annulments are seldom granted.
But if these legal requirements weren’t met at the time of marriage, the marriage is considered by law to have never taken place.
This is what we call annulment, which is different from divorce, a process designed to dissolve a marriage that existed.
When one spouse is of a different nationality, that marriage is governed by the Foreign Marriage Act of 1969.
The objective of this Act is to formally recognize marriages between Indian nationals and foreigners.
Although, as you can see, there are various marriage-related laws in India, this Act covers all the conditions and possibilities having to do with marriage.
That is, it contains special provisions concerning marriage not covered in other acts.
If both spouses are settled in a foreign country, they can file for divorce by mutual consent under that country’s divorce laws concerning foreign marriages.
In the Indian legal system, the divorce will only be recognized if both parties consent to it.
The following are the grounds on which a person can file for divorce (at least under the Hindu Marriage Act, which applies to the vast majority of married Indians):
- Cruelty – This is the most commonly used ground. Cruelty can be anything from physical violence to falsely accusing a spouse of adultery to denying a spouse their independence to failing to disclose a sexually transmitted disease (STD) while married.
- Adultery – According to the Act, adultery is when a spouse voluntarily takes part in sexual intercourse outside of their marriage.
- Renunciation – In the Hindu faith, a person can become a sanyasi and adopt a life of renunciation in which they renounce their attachments to worldly pleasures. If a Hindi becomes a sanyasi, this can be considered grounds for divorce.
- Desertion – This applies if one spouse has deserted the other for a continuous period of time no less than 2 years immediately before the presentation of the divorce petition.
- Not heard from for 7 years – If a person hasn’t been seen or heard from by the people close to them, including their spouse, for a continuous period of 7 years, that person is presumed dead. If their spouse wants to remarry, they have to file for divorce.
- Mental disorder – If an individual has been considered to be “incurably of unsound mind” or mentally ill to the extent that their spouse can’t reasonably live with them, that spouse can present a divorce petition.
- Religious conversion – A marriage can be dissolved through divorce if one party ceases to be Hindu by conversion to another faith or religion.
- Venereal diseases – Also known as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), venereal diseases are grounds for divorce in India.
Yes, it’s legally possible. But, with all the complexities and nuances surrounding divorce in the country, this can prove to be incredibly difficult.
You must comply with all the laws and regulations related to your specific case before showing up to court.
In addition, you have to produce the divorce application (either before or after the petition has been filed) all on your own.
The biggest advantage of divorcing without a lawyer is that you don’t have to pay lawyer fees, which make up the largest position of divorce fees.