Many hit relationship roadblock from 6th month to 2nd year after marriage
The marriage of 26-year-old Karthika (name changed) and 29-year-old Ganesh (name changed) – both working with Bangalore-based private firms – was arranged by elders in 2009.
Three years later they filed a divorce petition by mutual consent and their case is pending before the Family Court in Madurai. According to the petition, the couple fought from the beginning over ‘petty issues’ which ‘affected their peace’ and that they realised that their marriage would not work.
Theirs is just one among over 1,000 cases pending before the family court. In several cases, the couples hit the relationship roadblock from the sixth month to the second year after the marriage, say counsellors in the court.
“It is predominantly the women who seek divorce citing incompatibility as the reason. Most men are concerned about the social stigma attached to divorce,” says M.D. Vijayalakshmi, one of the six counsellors in the court.
The men easily succumb to depression, mental trauma and are distressed as they are conscious of social humiliation they may face in the one-year proceedings of the cases, she adds.
“There have been several cases where the women claim that their spouses failed to reveal their actual income before marriage. A majority of the women seeking divorce are well-employed,” Mrs.Vijayalakshmi notes. Inter-caste and inter-religious marriages don’t always work and fissures erupt in such cases more frequently, says another counsellor.
“The couples of inter-caste and inter-religious marriages are unable to cope with the socio-economic issues post-marriage. In a few cases, their families play the spoilsport by insisting on things, such as converting to another religion, which start trouble in otherwise happy marriages,” M.M. Dhanasekaran, a counsellor, says.
Interestingly, middle-aged couples and senior citizens rarely seek divorce, he claims. Recalling a rare instance, he said, “Recently a 63-year-old man sought divorce from his 55-year-old wife because they did not have children. He wanted to remarry and have a child to leave his wealth behind. But for such peculiar cases, not many middle-aged couples and senior citizens seek divorce. Most of the litigants in this court are in their 20s and 30s,”he says.
The court follows a well-etched mechanism leaving ample scope for reconciliation for the couples even after they file divorce suits, like ordering several sittings of counselling. But that works only in 50 per cent of the cases, says the counsellors.
“Divorce proceedings are usually drawn to at least one year, in order to give chances to the couples to iron out their differences. About 50 per cent of the couples who file divorce petitions reconcile after counselling. We try to explain the trauma their children will undergo if they divorce and that has worked in several cases,” says Mr.Dhanasekaran.
Generally, the mother and maternal grandparents get the custody of children, and the father is entrusted with their custody only when the mother’s behaviour is objectionable, he adds.
The lack of pre-marital counselling could be a major reason for the short life of marriages these days, opines K.S.P. Janardhan Babu, director (programmes), M.S. Chellamuthu Trust. Mr.Babu was one of the counsellors in the family court until recently.
“Earlier when joint family system existed, the couple had elders to offer counselling and help them overcome differences. In the nuclear family set-up, the couples seem to have inflated egos and egalitarian issues. The children are the worst affected when the couple decide to separate,” he told The Hindu.
Until a decade ago, most of the divorce cases were filed because the women were subjected to dowry harassment or abuse by their alcoholic husbands, he adds. However, the recent trend indicates the lack of understanding between the spouses is the basis for most divorce cases, Mr.Babu says.
Hiding the details of past relationships from the spouses before marriages is another factor for the divorce, he adds. “Most often the elders advise the brides and grooms to conceal details about their past relationships before marriages. When the spouses come to know about those details post-marriage, they are not able to come to terms with fact,” according to Mr.Babu.
Janet Sankar, Professor at Madurai Institute of Social Sciences (MISS), says a lack of understanding and incompatibility between the couples could be the reason for several divorces.
“Couples between the age of 25 and 35 are not tolerant, there is no adjustment, basic understanding and empathy,” she adds.
Ms.Sankar adds in most families the parents fail to orient the brides and grooms to the marriage and the married life. “Parents are generally under the belief that their children know things better than them. But in reality, the youths are not very mature and do not have a balanced mind often. In several cases, the influence of the in-laws also breaks marriages,” she concludes.
As per the data available in the family court, there is a steady increase in the number of divorce cases being filed. On an average, 60 divorce petitions are filed in the court every month.
A counsellor of the court said the court is unable to cope with the number of divorce cases and the authorities have sent a proposal to the State seeking the establishment of an additional family court in Madurai.
“The court is not understaffed, but we are unable to handle all the cases. For at least one year the court did not have a sitting judge, because of which there is a huge pendency of divorce cases,” says a court employee. The judge in the Mahila Court was given the additional responsibility of handling divorce cases until a few months ago.
The disposal rate in the court has seen a substantial rise after a judge was posted in April this year, but that is not adequate, the employee adds. According to the data, at least 150 cases are being disposed of in the family court every month. The court has its jurisdiction over Madurai city.