How Hindu Women’s Property Rights Are Protected in a New York Divorce
Women who entered a Hindu marriage in India and who now live in New York can obtain a divorce here that gives favorable treatment to their property rights— including the unique Hindu right known as Streedhan.
In New York divorces, the law of equitable distribution applies. This system, which requires courts to weigh a number of factors before dividing a couple’s property, can mitigate the harsh outcomes Hindu women would face if the divorce were occurring in India. It’s a complex process, but equitable distribution almost never limits a wife to as little as she would receive in a traditional Hindu divorce.
In a Hindu marriage, the wife has fewer property rights than the husband. In a divorce, a woman is not entitled to any of the marital property unless she owned it first. Typically, most of the couple’s property belonged to the husband prior to marriage and it therefore reverts back to him upon divorce.
On the other hand, Indian law provides for the Hindu right of Streedhan (also spelled Stridhan or Stridhana) which means the “property of a woman.” Under the Hindu Succession Act of 1956, property obtained by a Hindu woman from any of the following sources is considered her absolute property — her Streedhan — and will remain hers after divorce. This includes property acquired:
- By inheritance
- By gift prior to the wedding ceremony or at the bridal procession
- By gift from her parents, siblings or parents-in-law at any time
- Through her own personal skill or exertion (i.e. work)
Often, a large part of the Streedhan is ceremonial jewelry gifted to a woman on notable occasions, including marriage and childbirth.
During equitable distribution in a New York divorce, a Hindu woman’s Streedhan will be protected, but only to the extent she can prove the identity of the property included. As such, she should take care to document her assets. She should keep records of gifts received, including who they are from and on which occasions they were given. A working woman should hold a separate bank account. There should also be careful records kept of all purchases and investments made in the woman’s name using funds from the Streedhan.
Hindu residents of New York who are filing for divorce should find an attorney who is well versed in Hindu customs and rules and knows what Indian couples should expect in terms of treatment of their traditional property rights.
Bryan L. Salamone & Associates, P.C. understands the cultural and religious factors affecting divorcing Indian couples. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your situation and how we can help. Call 1.631.479.3839 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation. We serve Nassau County, Suffolk County and all of Long Island.