NRI Marriages and Divorce

NRI Marriages and Divorce

‘Divorce- a resumption of diplomatic relations and rectification of boundaries’-. Bierce. The most sacred institution which binds persons for a lifetime together is self-destroyed by these two persons. It is an abrupt stop and legal way to end a relationship. The financial trauma of this is excruciating.

The contemporary trend is marriage of a Indian brides with NRI grooms. The recent statistics shows that approximately 225 women from metros get married to NRIs every year[1]. The NRI spouse already has another spouse, and in some cases children also, settled with him abroad. In most of the cases the groom does not take the bride with him leaving her behind with parents. But when the reality is disclosed the girl’s family seeks divorce for their daughter. The various situations which lead to divorce are-

  • FINANCIAL STATUS-The NRI spouses inflate their possessions in the foreign country – home, vehicle, high paying job, but actually might not be in a position to support a family after marriage.
  • INCOMPATIBILITY-The lifestyle of the NRI spouse is too much advanced for the Indian spouse to keep pace with him or her. The NRI spouse feels that he or she is not suitable as a partner and seeks divorce on the grounds of incompatibility.
  • BIGAMY-A person who has married an NRI, later finds out that he/she already has a spouse.

What law applies to NRI marriages?

  • If both the spouses are Indians and have been married under Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 then they can seek divorce with mutual consent under section 13-B that provides for divorce by mutual consent.
  • If both the spouses are residing in USA, or any other foreign country, then they can seek divorce by mutual consent under the country’s divorce laws related to foreign marriages. The Indian legal system will recognize the divorce only if it is with the consent of both the parties.

Case law– Ruchi Majoo v. Sanjeev Majoo-Civil Appeal no. 4435 of 2003 with Criminal Appeal no. 1184 0f 2011 Date of decision 16th May 2016- The Supreme Court has ruled that Indian courts have jurisdiction to deal with custodial disputes of minor children even if a foreign court has passed an order in favour of either of parents. Simply because a foreign court has passed an order considering the welfare of the child the Indian courts cannot shut the matter.[2]

[1] Mr. Sidharth Shah, ‘Divorce laws and procedures for NRI in India’ last accessed on 7th August 2017

[2] last accessed on 8th August 2017

The not-so-sweet face of NRI marriages – and how to prevent it

NRI Marriages issues

The sacred institution of marriage has become more of a settlement system between two families nowadays. People have started thinking of it as a status symbol and entering into NRI marriages is considered a sign of higher status in society.

NRI marriages imply wedding of a Non-Resident Indian with a person residing in India. Though traditionally this marriage isn’t any different, in several cases problems arise due to various issues such as language constraints, difficulties in communication, no or little information about the local criminal justice, police and legal system, etc.

Also, the women being far away from the family in an alien land often feel isolated. When they face problems with their in-laws they have no one to go to.

The problems which may be faced in NRI Marriages are:

  • Abandonment by the in-laws immediately after the wedding.
  • Brutal harassment, both mentally and physically, after moving to the foreign land. This is usually done to extort more and more dowry.
  • Deserting the woman in the alien country without providing any means of sustenance
  • Facing bigamy. Sometimes in NRI marriages the husband might already be married to some other women and the new wife would be treated only as a domestic help, ill-treated and malnourished.
  • Fraudulent marriage as after marriage it may come out that either of the counterparties has given false information about the job, family, immigration status, marital status, earning and other material particulars.

Preventative measures to avoid these issues

To deal with these problems and keep them at bay, one should take the following steps:-

  1. Confirm the following facts about the families before entering into marriage:-

The families should get the following documents checked and if possible get a photocopy of each of them before performing the wedding.

  • Family background
  • Passport, Visa
  • Alien Registration Card, Voter
  • Tax returns of last few years
  • Bank Account Number along with the statements
  • License Number, Social Security Number
  • Documents related to Property and other assets
  • Details about Education as well as Employment (employers, post, salary, address of the Offices)
  • Immigration Status (type of Visa, eligibility to take the spouse with him)
  • Criminal antecedents
  1. Precautions that should be taken up by the parents of the bride to safeguard her interest in foreign land:-

  • Perform both traditional and registered marriage and maintain a proof of it.
  • Avoid a secretive marriage and do not get engaged in haste. Also, invite a sufficient number of people so that if needed there are witnesses for the wedding.
  • Do not agree to get married only in the foreign land. Reason being that the laws of that country may not be favorable for divorce and abandonment. In this case, the verdict of Indian courts may not hold any standing in the foreign courts.
  • The families should always be aware themselves about the laws in foreign countries related to abuse, domestic violence, divorce, etc.
  • Open a bank account exclusively in the name of the bride that can be used in case of emergency.
  • Always keep prepared the photocopies of essential documents such as the marriage certificate, passport, visa, etc.
  1. Have a safety plan:-

  • Maintain contact details of Police, State authority, helpline, Indian Embassy at the foreign land, Indian welfare officers, social support groups.
  • Stay in touch with friends and relatives.
  • Do not hand over the passport or visa to any unauthorized person.