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Marriage Bill: Property law Rights of Wife After Divorce

In August 2012, a bill called ‘The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act’ was passed in the Rajya Sabha, Marriage Bill: Property law Rights of Wife After Divorce in which some changes regarding property-sharing in divorce cases were made. Divorce lawyers are expected to make a handful, if this Act gets implemented.
The main change in this bill, which has worried many men, is the clause that “the wife’s share in property would be 50% in all her husband’s residential properties, no matter what, and in other properties, her share will be decided as per the court’s decision”.

Wife’s 50 Percent Share In Husband’s Property
In the past, the wife was entitled to a share in her ex-husband’s property, but no specific proportion was detailed, according to law. With the present amendment to The Marriage Amendment Laws Act, the ex-wife will enjoy half of her divorced husband’s residential properties, without any conditions. Women will have to apply for their 50 percent share, either through themselves or through a divorce lawyer.
Another significant point to note is that this rule applies to all properties owned by the husband (those bought both before and after the marriage). In the past, the wife’s divorce lawyer could only claim a share of the properties bought by her husband after she was married to him. If the man does not have a good divorce lawyer, he will stand to lose a lot from such a divorce. Hence, it’s better to work things out and not get a divorce, if possible.

When A Wife Is Joint Owner in Her Husband’s Residential Property
Sometimes couples register a house in both their names. While some pay for the house with their respective salaries, in some cases the husband may for the house by himself. Now, what would happen in case of a divorce? Well, the woman would get her normal 50 percent share, plus 50 percent of her husband’s 50 percent share in the residential property. Meaning, the wife would get 75 percent, while the husband would have to remain satisfied with a mere 25 percent.

Wife’s Rights on Other Properties of Husband in India
Other than the compulsory share of 50 percent in her ex-husband’s residential properties, the woman’s divorce lawyer can also claim a share in the man’s other types of properties. This quantum is not specified in the bill, and depends on the ‘current living standard of the wife’.

Is This Law Against Men?

Many pro-male groups and lobbies have criticised The Marriage Laws (Amendment) Bill as being anti-male and illogical. Some of this points that have been brought up are:

  • The bill only mentions division of the husband’s properties, and does not include the wife’s properties. Even if it is the woman’s fault, she will still get her husband’s hard earned land/house etc, but his divorce lawyer will not be able to claim anything from her.
  • If husband and wife are living separately for many years, the wife can oppose divorce due to ‘irretrievable breakdown of marriage’ on the grounds of financial hardship, but the husband’s divorce lawyers cannot.
  • The law is expected to encourage more women to file for divorce, and grab their husband’s property. This will spoil the family system, and encourage the proliferation of divorce lawyers, who will make big bucks.
  • Men who are thinking of divorce may convert their residential properties into immovable assets or transfer their house to parents/relatives names, to prevent their wife’s lawyers from claiming 50 percent in their property.

What do you think of the divorce-related property division clauses in the Marriage Laws (Amendment) Act 2010? Please post your comments below.

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