Saturday, December 10, 2011

Divorced woman can't use ex's name, rules HC

``What's in a name...'' The famous Shakespearean line from Romeo and Juliet popped up during an acrimonious divorce case on Wednesday. ``A lot,'' said an aggrieved man, ``especially when my ex-wife is misusing it''. The Bombay high court concurred and in a rare order that might make divorced men smile, directed the divorced woman to stop using her former husband's name and surname.

The HC further clarified: ``ex-wife cannot use the husband's name anywhere, including in her bank account''. The landmark judgment was passed by Justice Roshan Dalvi as she dismissed a petition filed by a woman challenging an interim order of the family court in Bandra.

R R Vachha, principal judge of the family court in Mumbai, had in September last year restrained the woman from using her ex-husband's name and surname as their marriage had ended four years ago. ``By using the ex-husband's name or surname, there is always a possibility of people being misled that she is still the wife, when in fact she is not,'' said Vachha. The HC upheld the family court order and said it need not be interfered with but should be given effect to ``for all purposes''.

The battle over names between the couple arose a year after the family court granted them divorce in February 2006 and the HC finalized it the same year. But the wife says she has moved Supreme Court where the matter is pending; she claimed she was still his wife.

The couple had begun their divorce fight in 1996 after staying together for a little over six months. When the woman filed for more maintenance after the divorce, the husband — a 49-year-old police inspector — contended through his lawyers Ramesh and Sadhana Lalwani that his ex-wife continued to use his name though she was no longer his wife legally and sought that she be restrained from doing so.

The man alleged that she was ``mischievously posing as his wife, entering into altercations and caused embarrassing situations for him''. He produced a news report from a local paper in his native village in Maharashtra about one such act of hers and said in villages where people were known by their family names, such behaviour affected not only him but his entire family.

He also argued that since the woman was not a wife anymore, she was not entitled to tag on her ex-husband's name and surname to her own as it would be misleading. The wife argued that her ex was merely being ``malicious and trying to malign'' her.

The family court held that ``the marriage had come to an end by virtue of theorders of two courts, but still the woman claimed to be the wife''. Observing that the issue arose out of a marital relationship, it restrained her from using the ex-husband's name.

The woman immediately moved the high court in appeal and said the family court order was wrong. Her lawyer Milin Jadhav, the HC said, ``fairly concedes that since the marriage has been dissolved by a decree for divorce which has become final, the wife cannot use the name of the husband''. He hadalso said that the bank account of the wife stood in both her maiden and married names.

Justice Dalvi observed that ``this itself shows that the wife uses the name of the ex-husband even after their marital relationship has been dissolved by a court order'' and significantly held that ``the description of the bank account was improper and the family court order had to be adhered to''.

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