Legal registrations of marriage are complicated, and legal separations are even more so.
NRIs may choose to tie the knot in India or their country of residence. The choice is theirs, and the Indian government has no say in it.
But if an NRI couple decides to separate, will they be able to make a decision on their own? Can NRIs get divorced in a foreign court?
Yes, NRIs can file for separation in a foreign court. But before that, you must know about the Registration of Marriage of NRI Bill introduced in 2019.
What are the Guidelines of the Registration of Marriage of NRI Bill in 2019?
If you’re getting married to a resident Indian, be sure to register the union within 30 days of the date of marriage.
Here is what can happen if you don’t abide by the Registration of Marriage of NRI Bill:
- The passport authority can impound your passport under Section 10(3) of the Passports Act, 1967.
- Indian courts can issue summons and warrants through the designated website of MEA.
- For proclaimed offenders, their immovable and movable properties can be seized.
Can NRIs File for Divorce in a Foreign Court?
Yes, you can obtain a divorce in a foreign court. But first of all, you will need to fulfill the residency requirements. The residency requirements may differ in different countries.
An NRI couple married in India can apply for divorce in a foreign court due to various reasons. But the most common ones are listed below:
- Domestic violence
- Issues relating to in-laws
- Financial problems when one spouse keeps the other in the dark about the finances
Primarily, divorce decrees can be of two types:
In this scenario, the parties agree to the terms of the divorce without any objection. This is also known as divorce by mutual consent.
For an uncontested divorce, the final separation can be obtained within a couple of months.
In this case, the couple wants a divorce but cannot come to an agreement related to property, child custody, alimony, and so on. In these cases, the court settles the matter after the separation agreement is signed.
For a contested divorce, the final separation may take up to two years from the date of filing.
Next, we lay down the key points to refer to when NRIs married in India are applying for divorce in a foreign country.
- You can seek recourse in the foreign court just like other citizens of that country.
- In some cases, the divorce can change the visa status, as governed by immigration laws.
- Even though your marriage may have been solemnized in India, the divorce laws of the foreign court will be applicable.
Will a foreign divorce decree be recognized in India?
Yes, a foreign divorce decree is recognized by Indian courts. But if you are an NRI couple married in a foreign location, you will not be affected by Indian divorce laws.
The Indian courts can only intervene in the separation of couples in the following situations:
- Resident Indian couples married in India
- NRI couples married in India
- Citizens of another country married in India
If you are an NRI couple married in India, the foreign divorce decree will be recognized by an Indian court only if the judgment:
- Has been obtained by the mutual consent of both parties
- Has not been obtained by fraud
- Abides by the Universal International Law
- Has followed the principles of natural justice such as adequate notice, fair hearing, and no bias
- Has been granted on the merits of the case with adequate proof (for adultery, domestic violence, economic hardships, etc.)
When do Indian courts decline a foreign divorce decree?
If either member of the NRI couple (married in India) is not satisfied with the verdict of the foreign court, he or she can contest against it in an Indian court. The Indian court will evaluate the foreign divorce decree to establish its merit.
The Indian courts will reject foreign divorce decrees in the following circumstances:
- The applicants did not have the opportunity to represent their case in the foreign court.
- If the foreign divorce decree has not been obtained on grounds recognized by the Indian divorce laws.
- The decree is against the principles of natural justice such as adequate notice, fair hearing, and no bias.
- The decree has been obtained by fraud.
If you are filing a divorce case in a foreign court, it is advisable to consult a lawyer beforehand.
The lawyer can guide you through the process of determining eligibility and applicability of foreign divorce decrees if it is valid in the Indian courts.
When the divorce is finalized on common ground (Indian and foreign courts), the chances of any further legal hassles are eliminated.
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