Suit for declaration of a matrimonial status before the family court

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Article | Family Law | Marriage

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What is the jurisdiction of family court and can I file suit for declaration of matrimonial status? Suit for declaration of marital status can be filed before the family court. The Family Courts Act 1984 empowers the family court, constituted under this act, to decide and declare about the matrimonial status of a person.

Before passing of this Act, the District Court and Magistrate have jurisdiction to decide various matter related to matrimonial disputes. There was no uniformity and cognisance were taken by more than one courts. Litigants were very confused to find appropriate court because some disputes are mixed case of civil and criminal nature.

After enforcement of the Family Courts Act 1984, there is uniformity in matrimonial cases. Section 7 deals with the jurisdiction of the Family Court and section 8, on the other hand, excludes the jurisdiction of other courts if the case is pending before the family court.

According to section 7, the family court has exclusive jurisdiction in respect of these matters:

  1. Decree of nullity of marriage.
  2. Restitution of conjugal rights.
  3. Judicial separation.
  4. Dissolution of marriage or Divorce.
  5. Declaration as to the validity of the marriage.
  6. Declaration of the matrimonial status of a person.
  7. The dispute regarding property between the parties to a marriage.
  8. Pass an injunction order in respect of marital relationship.
  9. Declaration as to the legitimacy of a person.
  10. Suit for maintenance under section 24/25 Hindu marriage act and u/s 125 of the code of criminal procedure.
  11. Admit a suit about guardianship of the child.
  12. Suit for custody of the child.

In your case, you can file a suit before the family court for the declaration of marital status. If the family court is constituted in your district, you can present such suit directly before the family court because the family court has exclusive jurisdiction. In the absence of family court, you can file a civil lawsuit before the court of District judge.

The wife can file a case under section 125 of the code of criminal procedure, for the maintenance. If a matrimonial case is pending before the family court, the application for alimony u/s 125 may be filed before the family court instead of Magistrate court.

Question: My marriage was performed in 2001 according to Hindu rites, but it was not registered. My son was born in 2005, and in 2012, I filed a D.V. petition. In response, my husband denied our marriage and claimed that we were in a live-in relationship. However, the court was not convinced, and I received an interim maintenance order for myself and my son, even though we were living in the same house as my husband. This order was changed in the sessions court and confirmed there as well. 

Then my husband appealed in the High Court, where we filed consent terms and settled the matter. Unfortunately, my husband passed away in 2018. Now, my in-laws are harassing me to transfer the property onto them and my son’s name, using the same argument that my husband had given, claiming that I am not his legal wife. Although I have my Aadhar card, PAN card, passport, my son’s birth certificate, and passport, all of which are in my husband’s name, I am struggling to transfer the property because I do not have a marriage certificate. Please guide me on what I can do. 

Asked from: Maharashtra

Marriage registration is not mandatory under Section 8 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. According to this section, a Hindu marriage may be solemnised in accordance with the customary rites and ceremonies of either party’s religion. Such a marriage becomes legal and valid once the customary rites and ceremonies have been completed.

You have enough evidence to prove that you are the legally wedded wife of your deceased husband. Therefore, you are entitled to receive his property if he died intestate. Your in-laws have no right to compel you to transfer the property to them or your children, and such interference is illegal. You should file a complaint against them if they continue to harass you. 

To avoid further complications, you should get the property mutation done in your name and your children’s names, as you all have an equal share in the property. Your in-laws have no right over it. 

To prevent any future disputes, you can file a civil suit under Section 7 of the Family Courts Act, which will declare your marriage as valid and your status as a legally wedded wife. This will establish your legal right to inherit the property according to the law of inheritance, and no further dispute will remain about your status.