Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Jhanvi Sharma
INTRODUCTION: MATRIMONIAL DISPUTES
The institution of marriage brings immense stability into society and many religions in India, highlight and propagate the concept of marriage through their respective beliefs and practices, the most prominent example being Hinduism. The relationship between husband and wife is not always peaceful and they experience various issues from time to time. Hence, matrimonial disputes are conflicts and disagreements that arise during a couples’ married life. Disputes or disagreements in a marriage can be about anything, ranging from very small misunderstandings to huge disagreements. A few of the many reasons behind matrimonial disputes can be alcoholism, nicotine addiction, lack of communication, extramarital affairs, financial instability, etc., and can cause disagreements between a married couple.
If these disagreements continue for a long time, they might lead to a separation or even divorce. Statistics reveal that India has the lowest divorce rate in the world. Only 1% of total Indian marriages end up in divorce, that is, in every 1,000 marriages, only 13 ends up in divorce. The low divorce rate of our country does not necessarily represent happy and successful marriages, but on the contrary, these rates showcase the lack of legal awareness and lack of autonomy especially for women.
Matrimonial disputes often result in domestic violence, cruelty, infidelity, etc., and can gravely affect the couple’s life in a social, physical, and even psychological manner. A large number of domestic violence cases are reported in India daily and it has been found that a majority of them are the result of disagreements or disputes between the husband and wife. Marital disputes even result in massive psychological distress and emotional abuse and a study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information revealed that suicide attempts in India are correlated with physical and psychological intimate partner violence. Matrimonial disputes not only impact the couple’s life but these disputes also play a negative role in the life of children.
HOW DO MATRIMONIAL DISPUTES IMPACT THE LIVES OF CHILDREN?
Family is considered to be one of the most basic units found in a civilized society. Out of all the social institutions, family is the most immediate one, and all of the exposure that a child gains in her/her early years is through family itself. Because of this, the family holds a significant influence on an individual’s life and personality. Matrimonial disputes are not specific to any religion or social status and can be faced by any couple. These disputes not only create a challenge for the married couple but can also cause emotional and mental distress to the entire family, most importantly the children. The children turn out to become the real victim of the disagreements and often find themselves helpless in such situations.
Studies have shown that the children who witness various marital problems and divorce between the parents tend to have increased rates of depression and anxiety. When compared to children that have a healthy and happy environment at home, children of parents who fight and quarrel have more psychological problems. The constant bickering between the parents can make a child feel isolated and alone. It has been seen that the divorce rate among heavy drinkers is high and the wives of the men who have an alcohol problem are very likely to be anxious, depressed, and socially isolated. This in turn disturbs the harmony of the home atmosphere of a child because it is often dented with physical, verbal, and mental abuse and in some cases, violence.
Children require a safe and healthy environment to grow up to their potential and they often require a good role model to help them navigate through life. A parent with addictions and unhealthy lifestyles provides a poor role model for a developing child. Children with an unstable home environment are potentially at risk of developing emotional and behavioral disorders. Continuous disharmony between parents can hinder the developmental process of a child.
The direct impact of matrimonial disputes on children:
1. Poor academic record: children with issues at home are often neglected by their parents and this leads them to perform poorly in school.
2. Disturbed mental health: conflicts can have an adverse impact on the mental health of a child and this could lead to long-term issues like stress and anxiety.
3. Substance abuse: Youth in India is already very vulnerable to the problem of addiction and young adults often resort to alcohol and drugs when they do not get the required care and attention from their parents.
4. Juvenile delinquency: the factor of neglect can also amount to petty crimes by children that belong to a broken household.
VIEW OF THE SUPREME COURT
Case Law: Lahari Sakhamuri v. Sobhan Kodali 
“The child’s psychological balance is deeply affected through the marital disruption”
The supreme court agreed that innocent children are the ones that ultimately suffer due to the disputes between the parents. The legal and psychological battle between the parents impacts a child’s life in a negative and exhaustive manner.
A two-judge bench delivered the judgment on this case and Justice Ajay Rastogi highlighted the plight and helplessness of the children torn between the custody battle. According to him, resolving the legal dispute between the parents is much easier but it is the children who suffer immense psychological harm. Justice Rastogi questioned the existing approach and suggested a negotiated resolution between the parents because the judicial resolution of a custody dispute may permanently affect the legal relationship of the parties but the social and psychological relationships continue to exist. Hence, a proactive step needs to be taken to focus on child rights in India.
Constant matrimonial disputes leave a profound impact on the couple but it is important to analyze the impact it has on the children of the family. In a disputed household, the best interest of a child is often neglected and a child who grows up witnessing disagreements and aggression between his/her parents often become highly sensitive to such issues, this can cause long-term psychological and emotional issues. Children and young adults may also develop health issues due to chronic stress.
There is a crucial need to reform and develop the sphere of child rights and dispute resolution in India. These reforms can protect the children from uncalled for stress and psychological traumas that they experience during judicial proceedings or even at their own homes.
 Why India has a low divorce rate?, available at: https://www.organiser.org/Encyc/2020/2/2/Why-India-has-a-low-divorce-rate.html (last visited on April 16, 2021).  Marriage, mental health, and the Indian legislation, available at:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2918313/ (last visited on June 04, 2021).  (2019) 7 SCC 311  Lahari Sakhamuri v. Sobhan Kodali, (2019) 7 SCC 311  Rights of children caught in parental conflict need focus: Supreme Court, available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/rights-of-children-caught-in-parental-conflict-need-focus-supreme-court/article26593711.ece (last visited on June 02, 2021).