When the big D is imminent, it is natural to be muddled up in emotions that range from a break down to pain, rage to self-victimization, and with whatever energy we do have left, we tend to stress ourselves by erring on the side of practicality and logic on what to do next.
So, before you pick up that phone and message your friends to check if they know a lawyer, here are a few actions that you can take in the right direction, legally speaking.
SMALL things matter!
Open up that documents folder and get that marriage registration certificate out along with a few marriage pictures (hard or soft copy). This is critical and something that we tend to lose focus on when thinking of the big things, but remember, the devil is in the small details.
It is also critical to have all your essential documents on you such as birth certificate, educational certificates, passport / IT return files of the past years, Adhaar card/ PAN card, etc.
This is important not only for litigation purposes or to visit the lawyer but remember that you also rightfully need to have access to all of these documents, whether it be to rent a house, to start work, to have a separate bank account, travel or migrate – you will need these documents.
Before you ask the questions – make yourself AWARE of your rights and liabilities.
Do your bare minimum research, talk to people, read online.
There are many support groups and legal aid websites that will give you a basic understanding of your rights and liabilities. One such platform is Pinklegal (hyperlink – http://pinklegal.in/marriage-and-divorce.html). They are building up certain sections, but there is some information that is already available here on cases of cruelty and domestic violence, etc.
Also, we highly recommend reading the glossary section on PinkLegal (http://pinklegal.in/glossary.html) because a whole host of legal jargon may not make sense at all. Evade that blank look or any future surprises by equipping yourself with knowledge.
Accounts – WHAT NO!!!
Whether you have access to your bank accounts or not or whether it is a joint account where there a chance for either spouse being locked out, ensure that you visit the nearest branch of your bank as soon as divorce becomes imminent to see what you can do to enable access to the money.
Jahnavi Dandekar, a practicing family lawyer in Mumbai says “One should always have access to enough monetary funds for any urgent needs including renting a home, hiring help or taking basic legal steps.”
She also added that one must “Enlist the Jewellery and valuables owned by the spouse with its location and access details.”
Can you TALK?
Once you meet the lawyer, a whole new set of emotions kick-in because decisions need to be made!
It becomes important to take a step back and assess what you want for the future. If there is the slightest chance that you can have a sit-down with your estranged partner and objectively talk about finances, home, kids, co-parenting among many other pressing issues, the process will become less daunting for you, plus there will be greater clarity for lawyers when they have to draw up the terms of separation and custody.
Having said that, we are mindful of the fact that this may not work with all individuals, so if you find it difficult to have a conversation like this – try and get a marriage counsellor to help you navigate this conversation.
What about TINY humans?
Who is going to have the physical care of the child/ children? This is where the line between emotions and practicality blur!
However, it is very important to figure a practical solution to this challenge and we learn as we go along. It is always helpful to have a conversation around those who would be better equipped to look at the situation objectively, like a child counselor, therapist, or someone in the family that you trust to navigate the conversation towards a positive outcome.
You see it – SAVE it!
Please make sure to store the documentary proof with regards to cruelty and adultery (especially in all the contentious cases). Keeping emotions at bay, save the evidence to make a stronger case (even if you choose not to contest or present, save it!). This includes Whatsapp messages, bank statements, emails, etc.
We know that to get to this point, where you are in the process of taking a BIG decision has been emotionally draining for you. We are here to share experiences and stories that may help you heal and build the gumption to embark on this new journey.
We are listening if you ever want to talk!