Divorce is a new and unexpected milestone in a lot of young metropolitan adult lives. No-one plans for it and yet the divorce rates are fast rising. Even the number of judges have been increased and special family courts have been created to deal with the fast rising divorce rates.

Unlike the western world wherein the terms of a divorce are well laid-out prior to the divorce in the form of a prenuptial agreement, India has always treated marriage as a religious sacrament and thus, the divorces can sometimes take an ugly turn when both partners have no idea about how to manage the finances subsequent to the divorce or how to divide assets in the divorce fairly.

Most parties are always advised by lawyers to aim towards a mutual consent divorce rather than to fight it out in courts and battle it for several years. In a mutual consent divorce, said separation can be over in six months and life can move on for the couples involved.

There are certain things every divorcing couple should be wary of:

  1. You probably have some joint assets or joint accounts. It would be a good idea at this point to transfer your money to individual accounts.
  2. In order to ascertain maintenance, it would be a good idea to get a know-how about your partner’s income and perhaps obtain their salary slip or some other kind of record such as I.T returns of the spouse.
  3. It would be a good idea to note down the essentials and financial spending and assets of the whole family.
  4. Maintain a assessment of precious items such as jewelry, antiques and arts
  5. It is time to see how much running your household costs and how much it costs doing it alone.
  6. Now would be a bad time to make any major purchases lest your partner convinces the court that you are in a superior financial position than what you claimed and thus do not need any assistance.
  7. Do not rent any other property to stay at and stay in the matrimonial home itself.
  8. Your property should be in your name, make arrangements to safeguard it if that is not the case. Keep photocopies of assets and bills held jointly if original is not with you.
  9. See the loans and liabilities in your name,
  10. Do not move out but do make alternative arrangements and think about where you will stay after the separation
  11. Change your will accordingly if you have one and change your benefactor in insurance policies, provident fund etc

In olden times, a lot of women would not budge away from bad relationships because of their financial dependance on their husbands. Thus, it is important to understand cash flow and important to understand how to safeguard yourself in this situation.

You need to make a calculation of your expenses including children’s expenses. Knowing your expenses will make you realize what to claim from your spouse for alimony. Another step is realizing your assets and jotting them down on a piece of paper. It may be cars, retirement plans, life insurance policies, cash, investments, gold or anything else. Then jot down the market value of these assets and savings. You may seek the help of a financial planner.

Assets arent the only things that ought to be assessed. Even liabilities such as loans should be assessed on the basis of the contribution made by each party. You can either decide to transfer the property in the name of the person who has been paying the loan or sell the property and divide the money.

When you have listed down all the assets and liabilities, it is time to divide them.

Another thing is if the wife is financially independent, the husband may not even need to pay the wife alimony or maintenance but if the wife is financially dependent on the husband, then he may have to pay her a sum of money whether in lump sum or monthly depending upon their agreement. A working wife may still be entitled to alimony if she does not earn enough to support herself or is unable to maintain the same standard of living as that of her husband. The wife who is dependent on her husband is entitled to a maintenance and her rights are dependent upon her financial status and standard of living which she is accustomed to including the husband’s assets and liabilities. India considers men to be the default earners although law provides a provision for the men to also get a maintenance amount from their wives.

In regards to child maintenance, both parties are equally liable to maintain their child whether financially or emotionally as child rearing is not just financial but mothers and father spend a lot of time in teaching and disciplining a child to make him into a mature and functioning adult. Spouses may agree to a lumpsum payment as regards to maintenance of child or a periodic payment given at different stages to the spouse that holds the physical custody of the child and depending upon his/her educational requirements.

In conclusion, when all is decided about the division of assets and liabilities and child rearing responsibilities, then is the time to put everything on paper and make it clear. It is also time to inform the court about your settlement and make an agreement which is also known as consent terms. Said agreement can be made before a marriage counsellor and it would tackle important issues related to alimony, children’s custody, splitting of assets and liabilities. Henceforth, all financial decisions such as loans should be taken seperately.

Moving on is a very very important part of the divorce cycle. Countless people get so obsessed with the divorce itself that they do not know how to move on and continue fighting a losing battle every-day in courts. Changed responsibilities are a time to redefine your life and make new longterm goals instead of living in the past and trying to hurt your ex-spouse or plotting revenge.

Divorce is a very trying time for all couples but if you follow all the aforementioned advices and consult a good divorce attorney and you will be alright.

-Advocate Tanya Mehta,
Siddhartha Shah& Associates