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No ‘COOLING OFF’ period in Mutual Divorce Cases

In a path breaking judgement on Tuesday, Supreme Court of India announced the relaxation in the procedure of granting divorce on the ground of mutual consent.

The main highlights of the judgement and explanation of the provision are as follows:

  1. A Hindu married couple may not need to wait six months for a separation order in the case of mutual consent and the marriage can be legally terminated in just a week.
  2. Six months “cooling off” can be waived if all efforts for mediation and conciliation to reunite the parties had failed. The stipulation under the Hindu Marriage Act for a six-month wait was not to perpetuate a purposeless marriage or to prolong the agony of the parties involved.
  3. The waiving off can be considered if the parties had already lived separately for at least a year. Court took the view that delay in proceedings will only prolong subsequent resettlement.
  4. The object of the cooling off period was to safeguard against a hurried decision taken by a couple to get separated and to allow them to explore ways to settle their disputes but this could not be made mandatory.
  5. Section 13B(2) of the Hindu Marriage Act says that if both parties do not change their pleas for divorce in a time period not less than six months and not later than 18 months, then the court shall pass a decree declaring the marriage to be dissolved.
  6. “Though every effort has to be made to save a marriage, if there are no chances of reunion and there are chances of fresh rehabilitation, the court should not be powerless in enabling the parties to have a better option,” the bench said.
  7. The apex court order also allowed family courts to use video conferencing for divorce proceedings and to permit parties to be represented by ‘close relations such as parents or siblings’ where they are ‘unable to appear in person for any just and valid reason’.

The court was dealing with the plea of a couple who had filed for divorce by mutual consent, eight years after they started living separately.




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