Money & Relationships: What are woman’s rights in a live-in arrangement?
It is important for a woman to know her financial rights whether in a marriage or in a live-in relationship to avoid the shorter end of the stick. Over the years, Courts have also defined the rights of a woman financial and otherwise.
In a marriage that goes sour and ends in a split, it’s often the woman who gets the short end of the stick. Typically ill-informed about her rights, she cedes them to the partner and invites financial insecurity for herself and her children. It’s easy to assume then that her situation would be worse in a live-in relationship. However, over the years, Indian courts have stood up for the rights, financial and otherwise, of a woman who is in a live-in relationship.
The Supreme Court has defined five categories of live-in relationships which can be considered in the court: domestic relationship between an adult male and an adult female, both unmarried; between a married man and an adult unmarried woman, entered knowingly; between an adult unmarried man and a married woman, entered knowingly; between an unmarried adult female and a married male, entered unknowingly; and between same sex partners.
1. Woman’s rights in a marriage
There are six basic rights that a married woman can lay claim to for her financial, physical and emotional security. These include the right to maintenance for herself and her children, to matrimonial home, to streedhan, to living with dignity and respect, to a committed relationship and parental property. The right to maintenance is covered under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. After divorce, maintenance is covered by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955(2) and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956. The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, covers all forms of physical, mental, emotional and economic abuse and neglect.
2. Maintenance rights in a live-in relationship
After the recommendations of the Malimath Committee in 2003, Section 125 was incorporated in the Criminal Procedure Code to alter the meaning of ‘wife’ and expand it to include women who were in a live-in relationship. This ensured that her financial needs were taken care of by the partner if she was unable to maintain herself or if the relationship became estranged. Similarly, protection against all forms of abuse is covered under the Domestic Violence Act, 2005, as it is for married women.
3. Right to property
The woman’s right to parental property is covered by the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, after it was amended in 2005. This gives her the same rights as a son to ancestral and self-acquired property, irrespective of her marital status. So, whether she is married, unmarried or in a live-in relationship, the right to ancestral property will accrue to her by birth, while the self-acquired property will be distributed as per the will.
4. Children’s inheritance rights
In 2014, the Supreme Court said that if a man and woman lived like husband and wife for a long period and had children, they would be considered legitimate. While personal laws don’t offer maintenance to kids born in live-in relationships, they are given protection under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code. As for property rights, Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act provides legitimacy to children born out of marriage. This means that such children have the same legal rights as those born in a wedlock and are legal heirs to both ancestral and self-acquired properties. However, live-in couples cannot adopt children as per the guidelines of adoption notified by the Central Adoption Resource Authority.
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The advice in this column is not from a licensed healthcare professional and should not be construed as psychological counselling, therapy or medical advice. ET Wealth and the writer will not be responsible for the outcome of the suggestions made in the column.