A U.S. Divorce Is Possible for Spouses in Unregistered Indian Marriages
When spouses who were married in India seek a divorce in the United States, they may be worried that their lack of a formal marriage record will be an impediment. While India has a Registrar of Marriages and now requires registration, couples wed in religious ceremonies are considered legally married even if the union was not formalized with the government. For the purpose of granting divorce, U.S. courts typically recognize any marriages considered valid within India.
But although you can terminate your unregistered Indian marriage legally in the U.S., you should be aware of some important considerations:
- Proof of ceremonial marriage —To demonstrate that a marriage solemnized by Hindu ritual is authentic and to show when it occurred, the parties can use the wedding album, photos of the ceremony (including rites such as the Mangalsutra Ritual), invitations and receipts for wedding-related services.
- Marriage must be legal under U.S. law — Though New York and other states will recognize a foreign wedding ceremony, the marriage itself must be legal. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 banned polygamy for most Indian citizens but exempted Muslim men, who are still permitted to have up to four wives. These polygamous marriages are not valid in the U.S.
- Ensuring validity within India — Indian law honors divorces obtained in other countries when based on a ground that is also recognized in India. For example, many no-fault divorces in the U.S. are based on the spouses’ agreement that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This matches India’s “divorce by mutual consent,” so that type of marriage dissolution would be considered valid. If one party contests the breakup or you’re unsure about whether you might also need to take legal action in India, it’s best to discuss the matter with an experienced divorce lawyer.
Divorce can be a trying process, but with skillful guidance, you can get an informed perspective on the American and Indian legal standards that affect you. From there you can move forward with confidence.
Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. represents clients throughout Long Island in divorces and related proceedings. To schedule a meeting at our Melville office, please call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online.