Sunday MiD DAY speaks with divorce lawyers to learn how they deal with the issue of alimony, custody of kids and almost-likely defeats
Marriages may be made in heaven, but divorces are finalised in courts, and here the angels are none other than the lawyers in black (robes). Sunday MiD DAY spoke to a few Family Court lawyers to learn how they deal with the complex and messy issues of divorce, to win favourable results.
Pointing out how different regular court cases are in comparison with those that deal with divorces, well-known advocate Mrunalini Deshmukh said, "In courts, documentary evidence is everything. But in matrimonial disputes, it is often one person's word against the other. There are almost never any witnesses within the four walls of a family's home, and keeping a record of events, whether it's police complaints, bank or credit card statements, is crucial."
Hold your horses In the case of Meena Kumar, who wanted to separate from her husband of three years, but whose husband was unwilling to agree, she made the mistake of posting her photographs and personal details on a matrimonial website, thinking she would soon get a verdict in her favour. The lawyer who was representing her husband's case said, "What she didn't count on was that I was trawling the Internet to find some dirt on her." According to the lawyer, who requested anonymity, he successfully used this bit of information in court to prove that she was mentally torturing her husband.
Build your case According to another lawyer who specialises in divorce cases, and who refused to be named, he once had to ask a client who wanted a divorce to continue living with an abusive husband and build a strong case against him. "When Dipali Chandra approached me telling me she wanted to separate from her husband, I asked her to bear with the abuses for some more time. She had never registered a single police complaint, and only her immediate family was aware of her ordeal. To build the evidence required for a divorce, I advised her to lodge non-cognizable offences against her husband with the local police station. By the time she filed for divorce, there was plenty of evidence to show Sameer's cruelty," he said.
How to ensure maintenance Another important aspect of divorce proceedings is the quantum of maintenance to be paid to either spouse. Often individuals hide their source of income or their jobs, so as to pay very little maintenance, if nothing at all. According to Deshmukh, "Lawyers often summon Income Tax officers as witnesses to testify what income the other party has." Others deliberately address court summons to work addresses, knowing that the counterfoil of the mail will indicate that the person holds a job.
According to advocate Flavia Agnes, who is the director of Majlis, an NGO for women's rights, "Apart from income, we look at the husband's lifestyle; what kind of car he drives, air tickets of his trips abroad and so on. If for example, a husband is the proprietor of a shop but claims to be only an employee, we take photographs of his shop's boards, which say he is the proprietor."
If you can't win it, delay it And in case a favourable result is not likely, advocates often try to delay the ruling. According to one advocate who represented a wife who was likely to win a divorce case, her husband's lawyer filed another application under the same provision in another court, thereby delaying the judgement for a few days. According to a provision under the Civil Procedure Code, trial of a suit is not permitted if there is already a similar suit pending elsewhere between the same parties. "We were awaiting a final judgement after years of litigation. The advocate not only filed such an application, he even asked the judge to refrain from dictating the judgment." According to another lawyer, another common tactic used by advocates is to read an application as slowly as possible. "They will read haltingly from their applications. rather than argue their case. When it's the other side's turn to counter, there's never enough time left," he said.
Names of divorce applicants have been changed to protect their privacy.