Family Court Procedures in India


September 26, 2023, 12:43 pm | Updated September 27, 2023, 6:11 pm IST
Family Court Procedures in India
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Table of Contents

Introduction

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.

Family Court Procedures

Here's an elaboration of the family court procedures in India:

Stage 1-Jurisdiction

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.

Stage 2- Filing the Case

  • A family dispute case is initiated by filing a petition in the relevant family court. The petitioner is the person initiating the case, while the respondent is the other party against whom the case is filed.
  • The petitioner has to file a petition stating the facts of the case, the relief sought, and any other relevant details.
  • In cases of divorce, the grounds for divorce must be mentioned in the petition.

Stage 3 – Court Counseling and Mediation

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.

Stage 4 – Counter-Statement

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.

Stage 5 – Evidence

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.

  • Section 15

    Oral evidence recording is not mandatory in family court proceedings. Only relevant portions pertaining to the suit or proceeding are necessary, and both the Judge and the witness must sign it.

  • Section 16

    Evidence of a formal nature can be presented through affidavits, and such evidence may, subject to reasonable exceptions, be admitted in any family court suit or proceeding.

Stage 6 – Cross-Examination

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.

Stage 7 – Decree and Court Orders

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.

Conclusion

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.

FAQs

  1. What are the rules of Family Court in India?

    The Family Courts Act of 1984 empowers State Governments, in collaboration with the High Courts, to establish Family Courts. These specialized courts are tasked with facilitating conciliation efforts and ensuring the swift resolution of disputes related to marriage and family matters.

  2. What happens in Family Court India?

    The Family Court exercises jurisdiction over the following situations:
    Legal actions or proceedings initiated by married parties seeking a nullity decree.
    Divorce cases.
    Petitions for the restitution of conjugal rights.
    Judicial separation matters.
    Suits or proceedings aimed at establishing the validity of a marriage or an individual's marital status.

  3. What is the procedure of appointment of judges in family courts?

    Judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President as per Article 124(2) of the Constitution. In making these appointments, the President engages in consultations with judges from both the Supreme Court and High Courts to ensure well-informed selections.

  4. What is the jurisdiction of a Family Court?

    There is a consensus that all matters directly related to family issues, including matrimonial disputes, spousal maintenance and alimony, child custody and support, children's education and financial assistance, division of marital property, as well as guardianship and child custody matters, should fall under the jurisdiction of the family court.
Written By:
Vidhikarya

Vidhikarya


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