Decoding Divorce

A new book with details of legal procedures,check lists and tips is the first-of-its-kind to offer advice to couples who are considering parting ways.

Written by Alaka Sahani | Published:May 14, 2013 12:46 am

DIVORCE may have lost its social stigma,but the procedures leading to it still remain a mystery for many. Motivational books help to bounce back emotionally and this is one such. Breaking Up: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Divorced (published by Penguin,Rs 250),by Mrunalini Deshmukh and Fazaa Shroff-Garg,is the first-of-its-kind to explain the legalities,and is almost like a guidebook.

The idea for the book came when Deshmukh,who has been a divorce lawyer for about 16 years,noticed lots of notions or warped ideas about divorce. “There are certain precautions one needs to take before the divorce takes place. This makes the person seeking divorce emotionally stable,before the meeting with a lawyer as he/she already has the basic information,” says Deshmukh,one of Mumbai’s prominent lawyers. Adopting a handbook style,she has divided the book into several sections. It is peppered with anecdotes and cases from Deshmukh’s career.

According to co-author Shroff-Garg,who has been working with Deshmukh for the last four years,it took almost two years to sift through the cases Deshmukh has dealt with and compile the book. “The first category was to explain the process of divorce,then highlight the grounds under all the religions as per their personal laws,then address ancillary issues such as alimony,child support and custody. We finally added useful tips,check lists,case studies based on Mrs Deshmukh’s clientele and finally the Frequently Asked Questions and Advice sections,” says Shroff-Garg.

In an extensive interview,Mrunalini Deshmukh talks about the role of counsellor that lawyers have to play,the factors contributing to the rise of divorce cases and the changes she would like to see in the legal system. Excerpts:

In the book,you mention that lawyers have to function as counsellors.

It is very easy to snap. So if I feel my clients are rushing into it,I tell them so. If there is one per cent chance of it being mended,I ask them to think it over. Sometimes,a good lawyer has to don the robe of a counsellor.

What do you perceive are the prime causes of divorce in society today?

For people who come from the lower strata of society,divorces are more over husband’s drinking habits,beating the wife or causing violence. In the middle-class,where there are professionals involved,it is at times related to ego,intolerance,a third person in the marriage or in-laws issues. In the affluent class,unfortunately,as I see,it all becomes money-centric. The richer the lady,the more she will fight for the money. The richer the man,less he will want to pay his wife.

Custody battles can turn quite bitter. What’s your stand on this?

In India,we must have the concept of joint custody. Today,mothers have come to the conclusion that children are their right. As much as children are the responsibility of a father in terms of giving money for their education and other expenses,it is also the duty of the mother to ensure that father and child spend quality time together. Almost all countries give joint legal custody,so that children get the feeling that both their parents love and care for them.

You have also raised the issue of equitable rights to assets.

Women should have equitable rights to assets. We are not talking about gold diggers here but those kind of women who were devoted to the relationship. The law says if the property has been bought by the husband but stands in the joint name of husband and wife,wherein the wife’s name is second,she does not have any right. This happened to one of my clients after 22 years of marriage.

What’s the percentage of people who go for out-of-court settlement?

Nearly 30-40 per cent clients agree for this. Sometimes,it is a matter of time also. It starts being acrimonious,but parties get tired as the case drags on. Laws are such that if you want a closure,it is given to the party,even though criminal cases have been filed.

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