Husband in Nagpur, wife in US, court grants divorce via WhatsApp

In a rare instance, a Nagpur family court has granted divorce to a couple after recording the wife’s consent via a WhatsApp video call.

The wife, 35, is studying in Michigan, US, on a student visa. Expressing her inability to attend the hearing as she was not permitted to seek long leave from her educational institution, the woman had requested that the hearing be conducted via a WhatsApp video call.

The husband, 37, a resident of Khamla in Nagpur, works in Michigan, but was in his home town when the divorce was officially granted by mutual consent.

After seeking consent from both sides, Nagpur Family Court Judge Swati Chauhan allowed their separation on the condition that the husband would pay the woman a lump-sum one-time alimony of Rs 10 lakh. The divorce was finalised on January 14, this year.

The family court had obtained the wife’s consent via a WhatsApp video call on the directives of the court.

The couple had an arranged marriage on August 11, 2013, at Secunderabad, now in Telangana. The husband and wife, both engineers, secured jobs in a US-based automobile company.

However, differences cropped up when the wife stayed with her in-laws in Nagpur for some time after her US visa expired. She returned to Michigan later on a student visa.

Over time, their differences deepened and the husband filed for divorce at the Nagpur Family Court.

The court referred their case to a counsellor as per existing norms but no hearing took place for some time, as both were abroad.

Smita Sarode Singhalkar, the wife’s lawyer, said she then took the lead and arranged a meeting at her office at Khare Town in Nagpur to go for an out of court settlement. The meeting was attended by the husband and his lawyer, while the wife was contacted on WhatsApp video call. The wife’s brother represented her at the negotiation.

Singhalkar says it took a couple of meetings to arrive at a consensus as both sides couldn’t settle on an agreeable alimony to be paid to the wife towards permanent settlement.

According to Singhalkar, it took a couple of meetings to arrive at a consensus on an agreeable alimony amount to be given to the wife towards permanent settlement.

“After both agreed to the amount, we (Singhalkar and husband’s lawyer Sameer Sonawane) contacted the counsellor, who in turn arranged another meeting with both parties,” she added.

While the husband attended the meeting, the wife was represented by her brother.

The counsellor interviewed the wife on the terms of settlement via WhatsApp video calls and also consulted the husband. Subsequently, both the lawyers informed the court that since both the husband and wife were already living separately in the US for over a year and the wife was ready for a one-time settlement, a divorce should be granted.

The court turned the divorce case into a mutual consent petition before dissolving the marriage.

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