Second Marriage: Property rights of Second Wife and Children

Understanding Succession

In the last ten years, many aspects of Indian inheritance law have been made clearer in an effort to end disputes. A well-liked change was the Hindu Succession Act of 2005, which grants a daughter complete rights to the father’s ancestral property as long as she can demonstrate her succession. Let’s understand with an illustration –

If the father marries again after the death of the first wife, he is free to leave his self-acquired property to whoever he pleases in his will. However, in an interstate divorce, the children of the first wife, second wife, and second wife’s children can each claim one part of the property. During his lifetime, his property cannot be claimed by the daughter of his first marriage. If the daughter of the first wife is not allowed to claim the property, she may seek assistance from the court. A daughter can always make a claim to inherited property, even after her father has passed away. If the father marries again after the death of the first wife, he is free to leave his self-acquired property to whoever he pleases in his will. However, in an interstate divorce, the children of the first wife, second wife, and second wife’s children can each claim one part of the property. During his lifetime, his property cannot be claimed by the daughter of his first marriage. If the daughter of the first wife is not allowed to claim the property, she may seek assistance from the court. A daughter can always make a claim to inherited property, even after her father has passed away.

Class of Heirs                                                                                                                    

The succession act details the class of heirs but without getting too technical let’s just look at a few examples to understand what type of relations fall in class one or two and how they are classified.

Son, daughter, widow, mother, son or daughter of a predeceased son, widow of a predeceased son, and son or daughter of a predeceased daughter are examples of Class I heirs.

Father, siblings, son’s grandchildren, daughter’s grandchildren, siblings’ children, grandparents, brother’s widow, father’s siblings, mother’s parents, and mother’s siblings are a few examples of Class II heirs.

Historical Perspective in regards to the second wife

Although monogamy has been the norm since the Vedic era, polygamy has occasionally coexisted with monogamy. However, the first-married wife was truly the only wife in all respects. There may have been a time when a man could get married again after his first wife passed away, according to one Manu book. However, the tradition did forbid a second marriage without the first wife’s approval and without providing for her. However, it was decided in the case of Raghveer Kumar v. Shanmukha Vadivar that a Nadar tradition in Udumalapeta Taluk prohibiting a second marriage, even if it were to be formed, could not have the force of law.

Second Marriage

In India, second marriages that occur while the previous marriage is still active are prohibited, and any relationships that result from such unions are invalid. The practice of “second marriage” is widespread in Indian society despite the fact that the law is extremely clear in this regard. Second wives in India have minimal legal protection as a result of the difference between the law and social practice outlined before.

The second wife and her children may also be entitled to property if the second marriage is a valid one (after a divorce or after the death of the first wife). However, following a Supreme Court decision, children of second marriages may now make a claim to their father’s property even if the marriage is declared null and void.

The following situations give rise to second marriages:

  1. Wife remarries without divorcing

The first wife and any children from the marriage may assert rights to the marital assets when a person marries again without first obtaining a legal divorce from his or her living first spouse. Even if there is uncertainty over the second wife’s rights in this situation, the property would be distributed equally among the first wife, her children, the children of the second wife, and in some extreme cases, the second wife after the death of the family’s leader.

2. Getting married after the first wife’s passing

The children from the first marriage and the children from the second marriage, as well as the second wife, would receive equal shares in the patriarch’s property following his passing when the husband remarries.

3. Following the first wife’s divorce, getting married

Apart from the first wife, the children of the first wife, the second wife, and the descendants of the second wife would all receive equal shares in the paterfamilias’s property in the event that the husband marries another woman after divorcing his first wife.

The offspring of a second marriage’s property rights

Children from a second marriage are recognized as legitimate by Section 16 of the Hindu Marriage Act, giving them the same claim to their father’s property as the children of the first wife, whether the second marriage is legal or not. They will be their father’s Class-I legal heirs and, in the case of his passing, will receive their inheritance in accordance with the guidelines of the 1956 Hindu Succession Act.

The Supreme Court of India also holds the opinion that even if a second marriage results in children, such children are still entitled to the father’s property.

While the offspring of the second marriage will be required to split the inherited property with other Class-1 heirs, if he writes a will specifying this intention, they may instead inherit all of his self-acquired property.

All of the man’s legal heirs would be entitled to the self-acquired property in the absence of a will.

What rights do the children of the second wife have to the father’s joint property?

Children of the second wife have rights to their parents’ independently obtained property, but they do not have direct rights to joint ancestral property. The children of the second wife are treated as legitimate heirs to the father’s landed estate in the event of his intestate death.

The Property Claim of Two Wives

If the first wife deserts the husband and he marries again, the first wife will receive the husband’s one part of the property if she makes a claim, and the children from the second marriage will receive the remainder. Even though the second wife is the husband’s nominee, if the first wife hasn’t filed for divorce, the marriage is void.

In the case of Vidyadhari & Ors v. Sukhrana Bai & Ors, 327 (Bombay High Court April 28, 1981). Sheetaldeen (the husband) married Vidyadhari (the second wife), with whom he had four children. Sheetaldeen had been abandoned by his first wife, Sukhrana Bai. All benefits resulting from the husband’s employment were reserved for the second wife, who may also apply for a succession certificate on behalf of her four children. The husband designated the second wife as his candidate. Despite this, when both wives requested succession certificates following Sheetaldeen’s passing, the Madhya Pradesh High Court sided with Sukhrana Bai while the Trial Court favored Vidyadhari.

Following another appeal, it was determined that Sheetaldeen’s first wife would receive a one-fifth share of her estate. The second wife had to give up her half since, in the eyes of the law, the first wife was the legal wife who had not been divorced before Sheetaldeen remarried. The four children also received their rightful share. As a result, in this instance, the first wife’s claim was upheld.

Conclusion                                             

For a woman, the social shame of becoming a second wife, the lack of legal status for the union, and the excruciating pain of being duped into marriage are definitely quite gloomy. Despite the fact that a second wife is not acknowledged, due to court interpretation and legislative initiatives, she has claims, and the children of such marriages also have claims to the property. Her chances of asserting her rights are less reliant on the judges’ judgment thanks to legislative measures.

References

Historical Perspective http://www.legalservicesindia.com/articles/rfs.htm

Second Marriage https://www.homeonline.com/home-buying-guide/articles/rights-to-property-of-a-second-wife-and-her-children/

Situations for second marriages https://indianlawportal.co.in/property-rights-of-the-second-wife/

The offspring of a second marriage’s property rights https://housing.com/news/wife-property-rights-in-second-marriage/

Second Wife’s Right to acquire property https://www.nrilegalservices.com/property-rights-of-second-wife/

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