Property ownership is usually a point of contention when the rights of women are concerned. In India, the property rights of women are often neglected, in the wake of which, the Government of India has executed several progressive steps to promote property holding among women.

With increasing urbanization, exposure to education, and awareness, the role of women has evolved in India to a large extent in the last few years. The cognizance of her status as equal to men has made women demand an equal platform in all facets including the home, profession, and even property holding. This increased awareness about having similar rights for women has compelled the government to amend its age-old laws which restricted women from claiming their share in the parental property.

Conferring to Section 14 of the Hindu Succession Act, 1956, “Any property possessed by a female, acquired before or after the commencement of the Act, will be held by her as the full owner and not as a limited owner.” As per this law, the woman represents the absolute owner of her property. Despite these amendments, many women are still unaware of their rights and are living under a misconception that they enjoy only limited powers over their property. The Centre has taken several steps to empower women’s property rights by introducing various amendments to the legislation. In the year 2005, the Act was further amended to grant equal rights to women.

Indian law provides for certain rights of a wife over her husband’s property. These rights are available not only to the first wife but also to the second wife. If a wife gets divorced from her husband, whether the divorce was mutual or not, decides whether the wife will get a share in the property of her ex-husband. The wife also has a right to the husband’s ancestral property through marriage. Let us see what are the various rights a wife has over her husband’s property. 

In Case Where The Property is Jointly Owned

Modern-day couples often buy property, which is registered in the names of both the husband and wife together. Such property is jointly-owned property. What happens to such property after divorce? Can a wife claim her share over a jointly-owned property? Yes, a wife has a share in a property that she jointly owns and her husband, even after divorce. However, for her claim to be successful, she would need to show that she also contributed to the property’s purchase. If the wife has not contributed to the purchase of the property, but her name is just mentioned in the registration document, she may not get a share in the property. Furthermore, the wife’s share in the joint property is equal to the share she contributed. Hence, if contributing to joint property and their husbands, women should keep a document trail proving their contribution to the said property. Couples can also resort to a peaceful settlement of the joint property. Whoever wants to retain the joint property can buy the other’s share, and an out-of-court settlement can also be reached on the same. 

Legal Rights of a Wife Over Husband Where the Property is in the Name of the Husband

If the divorce is mutual and the property is in the husband’s name, the wife may not have any right over the said property. For instance, if the husband and wife live in a flat that was purchased in the husband’s name, after divorce, the wife cannot claim her right over the same. Indian law recognizes those as the owner in whose name the property is registered. 

In such cases, the wife can demand maintenance from the husband, under the law, but cannot stake a claim to the husband’s property. 

If the couple is separated and the divorce proceedings are ongoing? 

Please note that a wife is her husband’s legal spouse till the time the court legally pronounces them as `divorced.’ Till such time, the wife has right over her husband’s property. 

Situations may arise where a husband leaves his wife and starts living with someone else or separately. In such situations, the wife and the children born out of their marriage have the right to stake a claim to the property.

If the husband marries a second time then the wife and children from the first marriage would have a claim over the property. without getting divorced from his first wife

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Wife’s Rights on Husband’s Property in India

A wife is entitled to inherit an equal share of her husband’s property. However, if the husband has excluded her from his property through a will, she does not have a right to her husband’s property. Moreover, a wife has a right to her husband’s ancestral property. She has a right to reside in her marital home and a right to be maintained by her husband.

A married woman is the sole heir of her husband’s property and retains every right to the property that has been earned, gifted, or willed to her. She does not secure the right to ask her family for the maintenance of the property she acquires from her husband.

To gift what she owns in parts or as a whole to anyone without any interference from anyone

To be supported with a residence and obtain maintenance from her husband

In the case of a joint family, the woman is entitled to receive support and shelter from the family. In the case of the husband’s demise, she is entitled to a rightful share as of her husband, jointly with his mother and children, and in the event of partition in the family, she will receive a share equitable to any other member of the family.

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Rights of Second Wife in Husband’s Property in India

Polygamy or having more than one wife is prohibited under Hindu law. Hence, if the first wife is living and is not legally divorced, then the second marriage assumes no legal significance. This means that the second wife will have no claim over her husband’s property. However, her children would stand to inherit their genetic father’s property. 

If a man marries, without formally and legally divorcing his first wife, the second wife and her children’s rights become limited. The law views the first wife as the legal wife till the time the court finalizes the divorce. 

If the second marriage is legally valid and occurs after the first wife’s death or after the man is legally divorced from his first wife, then the second wife would get all the rights a wife would have over the husband’s property. These rights would be over the husband’s ancestral as well as self-acquired property. 

Hence, the second wife’s right over her husband’s property depends upon the legal status of the marriage. It is important to check if the man you are marrying already has a living spouse or not. 

Thus, the property rights of a wife in India over her husband’s property depend on a variety of factors. It is important to know how a wife can lay claim over her husband’s property and what is her share in the same.

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