Updated: Aug 17
WHAT IS SPOUSAL PROPERTY?
Spousal property means all the assets and liabilities acquired by the couple during the marriage which includes cars, furniture, shares in a company, rental income, savings, etc. Whereas, liabilities include debts (mortgages or other loans and leases).
Spousal property is inclusive of all the movable or immovable property bought by the husband or wife through their joint earnings or a separate property which is used extensively by both the parties equally or a gift which they got during their marriage. The separate property now includes property that was purchased before marriage or individually inherited property or a gift that was received before marriage, or property that was purchased solely from your hard-earned money and then used by that person.
The problem arises when there is a divorce. As far as the marriage is going strong, the spouses do not care as to in whose name the property is bought and who is paying the money.
MODELS OF MATRIMONIAL PROPERTY
Here, the division of property is based on true ownership regardless of conjugal status. The properties bought by any life partner previously or after marriage stays as his/her own property after separation and the other mate has no option to get property after the dissolution of marriage.
This model doesn’t consider the joint income of both. The owner is permitted to do whatever he/she needs to do with the property that he/she has inherited or bought.
Opinion: The concept of separate ownership promotes individualism, which in my opinion is against the foundation of marriage. It is the homemaker who plays a vital role in the family. In this patriarchal world, most of the non-working spouses are females and their contribution is managing the household things and the family can never be compared in monetary terms. Therefore, there exists a need to give them financial security even after the divorce which this model does not support.
In the west, matrimonial property depends on the standard of equivalent dissemination between the life partners. This system is known as a community property system. This system just incorporates the property which has been gained over the span of the marriage and does exclude the gifts and inheritance procured during the marriage and consider them as discrete property. This incorporates the property which has been brought by any of the mates over the span of the marriage. The rationale behind this distribution is that the spouses should have an equivalent commitment to the common fund and every mate after separation ought to be in the equivalent monetary condition.
Opinion: This is the best model for the distribution of property since marriage is a sort of partnership where both spouses have their roles. In the event where one mate is earning and others are working at home, at that point the two of them are equally contributing to the structure of the family. This system perceives the commitment of a non-working companion and guarantees monetary security. This model guarantees the independence to the mate and guarantees the financial support after separation and shields the other companion from the misuse.
MODEL SUITED FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF SPOUSAL PROPERTY IN INDIA
In India, separate ownership of the matrimonial property is followed in which properties of spouses are considered different and no spouse has a right on other’s property except in a few conditions. This model doesn’t recognize the financial contribution of a non-working spouse in the family.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court has tried to give recognition to the non-working spouse in the celebrated case of Malay Kumar Ganguly Vs Dr. Sukumar Mukherjee and Ors where it was held that “For compensating a husband for loss of a wife, the courts consider the loss of income to the family. It may not be difficult when she is earning. Even otherwise a wife’s contribution to the family in terms of money can always be worked out. Every housewife contributes to her family. It is capable of measuring in monetary terms although the emotional aspect of it cannot be.
Gurudas Banerjee in his book says that India is the first country to recognize the proprietary rights of women. Section 39 of the Indian Divorce Act says that the wife seizes to be the owner of her property if the ground of divorce is adultery. Similarly, Section 27 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 mentions that spousal property is that when their parents adjusted some kind of property at the time of marriage will be considered as the joint property of the couple.
In the case of Rajendra Singh Vs. Tulsa Bai, the court held that petition under section 27 can only be considered if the property in the issue is a joint property of the couple. As per Indian laws, stridhan is the utmost important property of women.
In the case of Pratibha Rani Vs. Suraj Kumar, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that stridhan is the wife’s absolute property and therefore the women have the exclusive right over stridhan. Stridhan is any kind of jewellery, clothing, or amount that women have received at the time of marriage. Also, the gifts given by the husband are treated as Stridhan.