Widows should not inherit ‘if divorce was underway’


Widows should have no right to the property of their deceased husbands if divorce proceedings were underway when he died, an Indian family has claimed.

The brothers and sisters of a man who lived in the southwestern Indian city of Kochi before his death more than three years ago have succeeded in an appeal against an earlier refusal to let them continue their sibling’s divorce proceedings as his legal heirs. He had claimed before he passed away that his marriage in 2012 had been null and void because his wife’s family defrauded him by concealing her ill health. Then in July 2013, with the divorce still pending and uncompleted, the husband took his own life.

But a family court in the coastal city refused to make his brothers and sisters parties to the proceedings so they could continue the divorce. They took their case to the local High Court of Kerala, where Justices have now ruled in their favour.

Their legal petition declared:

“On the death of a husband who filed petition to declare marriage null and void on the ground of fraud and cheating, the divorce petition will [should] not abate [cease]. The legal heirs of the deceased husband would be interested in urging that the surviving spouse is not a widow of the deceased and she may not share with other legal heirs the property of deceased husband.”

Their brother effectively died intestate they insisted, and so they should inherit his property rather than the widow.

The case will now return to the Kochi family courts for settlement of the competing claims.

Photo of Kochi by Aleksandr Zykov via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

Stowe Family Law Web Team

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