Wedding contracts are rare

Wedding contracts are rare

Couples abroad are entering into pre-nuptial agreements, setting down many conditions in black and white, but things are more sentimental out here

The power of marriage contracts was brought to the fore when it was recently revealed that women in Saudi Arabia are including the right to drive and the right to work into them.

In many countries, these legally binding contracts codify the woman’s rights to hire a maid, study or work — a safety net in patriarchal societies that might not view such acts too kindly.

Why don’t we have marriage contracts or pre-nuptial agreements in India, where the woman’s demands are still subject to the whims and fancies of the husband and his family?

“That’s because pre-nuptial agreements are not valid in India,” says Koodanda Eshan Kaverappa, advocate. “Marriages are considered sacramental here and not contractual. Especially in Hindu marriage, contracts are not mandatory as the rituals are enough to prove that a couple has entered the institution of marriage.”

Prenups, as such contracts are called, are more popular in Middle Eastern and Western countries, he says. 

Why the hesitation?

Research and surveys cite many reasons — ranging from confusion about the process and the unsentimental nature of such contracts. Doesn’t a contract suggest lack of trust in the partner? Many feel such agreements are meant only for the rich. 

Not legally binding...

Advocate Ms Vandana Shah, who specialises in divorce cases, says even if the couple does draw up a prenup, it has no legal validity; at best, it might act as a guideline in case of a split. 

“Marriage as a contract is not permissible in India which is why prenups are not valid in India; this is applicable to all codified acts pertaining to marriage in India — whether it is the Hindu Marriage Act, or the Special Marriage Act,” she told Metrolife.

But still a good idea

Many in the legal community feel prenup agreements should be allowed in India as they make court procedures less painful.

 “We are not that upfront about these things, that is true. However, India is going through a social churn and we might as well accept divorce as a reality now,” she says. The agreements are especially useful when the divorce is by mutual consent.

What’s a pre-nuptial agreement?

It is a contract individually signed by a couple before marriage. The signed, registered and notarised document outlines the distribution of assets and liabilities and custody of children in case of a divorce.

Why is it important?

- Helps avoid long legal battles in case of a split.

- Helps prevent partners from slapping criminal charges, especially under Section- 498A of the Domestic Violence Act.

- Alimony can be decided beforehand, keeping in mind the financial status of the partners.

- Individual needs can be taken into account.