Family court procedures in India are governed by the Family Courts Act, 1984, which was enacted to provide a specialized forum for the resolution of family-related disputes. These courts are established to deal with matters such as divorce, child custody, maintenance, adoption, and other family-related issues. The procedures in Indian family courts are designed to ensure fairness, confidentiality, and expeditious resolution of family disputes.
Here's an elaboration of the family court procedures in India:
Family courts have jurisdiction over matters concerning marriage, divorce, restitution of conjugal rights, judicial separation, child custody and guardianship, adoption, maintenance, property disputes, and other similar family-related issues. It's important to note that family courts do not have jurisdiction over matters related to the succession of property or testamentary matters.
When the respondent receives a court summons, they are required to appear before the Family Court Judge. Under Section 9 of the Act, courts are mandated to make efforts towards dispute resolution. Consequently, in the initial stage, the Judge refers the parties to a counselor to undergo counseling. This step aims to prevent the escalation of conflicts and foster potential reconciliation between the couple.
Counselors are obligated to disclose the details of discussions held with the spouses during counseling sessions. They subsequently provide a report indicating the possibility of reaching a settlement.
If the case remains unresolved through alternative dispute resolution methods, it is referred back to the court. The Family Court Judge, under Section 10(3) of the Act, possesses ample authority to assist the parties further.
Following the completion of pleadings on both sides, the inquiry begins with the petitioner. The petitioner's primary examination occurs through testimony. Both the petitioner and respondent present their evidence before the Judge in support of their claims. Sections 15 and 16 of the Act delineate the procedure for recording evidence.
The petitioner and the respondent are allowed to cross-examine each other to challenge the opposing party's submissions and refute claims and evidence presented in court. Parties can assist their counsel in preparing for evidence recording and cross-examination.
Following the hearing of conflicting arguments, the court may postpone the case to issue a decree and orders, granting or denying the relief sought by the parties.
Family court procedures may be conducted in the presence of cameras, as provided by Section 11 of the Act. This is contingent upon the court's discretion or the request of any party involved.
Given the family courts' less formal nature, they do not extensively record witness testimony. Only evidence relevant to the case is documented, in accordance with Section 14 of the Act. Any report, statement, or document pertaining to the subject matter is admissible under the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.
Presently, family court proceedings can be time-consuming, from the counseling stage to the final hearing, particularly when both parties adhere to court directives and submit their claims within stipulated timeframes. Delays may further occur due to interim applications for maintenance relief, child custody, or objections against interim orders, among other factors. The establishment of family courts has been a proactive measure in alleviating case backlog and ensuring efficient delivery of justice. To know more about family court procedures, it is always advisable to consult experienced family lawyers.