Salient Features of The Family Courts Act, 1984: A Closer Look

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

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The Family Courts Act, 1984, enacted by the Parliament of India, was a significant step towards ensuring speedy settlement of family disputes and creating a congenial atmosphere to resolve such disputes. The Act recognises that family disputes require a unique approach given their sensitive nature and the relationships involved. In this blog post, we delve into the salient features of the Family Courts Act, 1984.

Establishment of Family Courts

  1. Creation and Jurisdiction: The Act provided for the establishment of Family Courts by the State Government, in consultation with the High Court. The jurisdiction of these courts extends to suits and proceedings concerning matters of marriage and divorce, family matters, adoption, guardianship, maintenance, alimony, and custody of minors. Notably, the Act also grants these courts the jurisdiction traditionally exercised by magistrates concerning the enforcement of maintenance orders.
  2. Exclusivity of Jurisdiction: The Act excludes the jurisdiction of other courts, where a Family Court has been established, to ensure that all family-related disputes are dealt with in a single forum. This streamlines the process and avoids multiple litigations in different courts.

Procedure and Decision Making

  1. Informal Proceedings: One of the key features of the Act is that it empowers the Family Courts to adopt an informal procedure in conducting the proceedings. The aim is to provide a comfortable environment for parties involved in the dispute.
  2. Assistance of Medical and Welfare Experts: Recognising the psychological and social aspects involved in family disputes, the Act enables the court to seek the assistance of medical and welfare experts. This aids in making a comprehensive and informed decision.
  3. Emphasis on Settlement: The Act places significant emphasis on the settlement of disputes. Before taking up the matter for hearing, the court must make efforts for the settlement of the dispute. This provision underlines the intention of the legislature to keep the court proceeding as the last resort.

Appeal, Revision and Transfer of Cases

  1. Limitations on Appeal: Appeals against the judgment or orders of a Family Court lie to the High Court. However, the Act limits the grounds of appeal. No appeal lies against a decree or order passed by the Family Court with the consent of the parties or against an order passed by the court regarding the costs of the proceedings.
  2. Revision and Transfer of Cases: The Act vests the power of revision and the power to transfer any suit or proceeding from one Family Court to another with the High Court.

Special Provisions Relating to Advocates

The Act contains special provisions regarding the role of advocates in the proceedings before the Family Courts. It confers power upon the Family Court to seek the assistance of legal experts as amicus curiae, and the court can also regulate the right of audience if it deems necessary.

Conclusion

The Family Courts Act, 1984, marks a significant shift in India’s legal landscape concerning the adjudication of family disputes. By creating a dedicated legal mechanism that prioritizes the amicable resolution of disputes and considers the complex emotional and social aspects, the Act embodies a more sensitive and human-centric approach to family law matters.

However, like any other law, the effectiveness of the Act largely depends on its implementation and the society’s ability to adapt to these judicial mechanisms. It is hoped that the Act will continue to evolve in line with the societal changes, providing justice to those involved in family disputes.