A popular adage goes, ‘If men behave after the marriage the way they do before it, half the divorces won’t take place and if women behave before marriage the way they do after it, half the marriages won’t take place.’ This is how renowned divorce lawyer Mrunalini Deshmukh and her associate Fazaa Shroff-Garg begin their book Breaking Up: Your step-by-step Guide To Getting Divorced. Treated as a pick-me-up consultation, the book is about divorce and the ancillary issues like alimony and child support and other tricky questions about marriage.
Between managing work as counselors and advocates, Deshmukh and Garg began working on the book in early 2011. Their idea was simple, to create a non-threatening and non-intimidating product.
Beginning the conversation in her plush office in Mumbai, Fazaa Shroff-Garg, lawyer and co-author, says, “This book comes at a very socially relevant time. Over the past few years there has been a dramatic spike in the number of divorce cases. It tells us that we are taking the institution of marriage for granted and that we have a lower threshold for tolerance and patience.”
Breaking Up... had the two of them culling out data and case studies of startling incidents. “I started making notes based on case studies of Deshmukh’s clientele and would coax her to give me time and narrate incidents that occurred years before. That’s when the journey really started,” says Garg. The two then decided to categorise the book into simple life processes of a marriage. The first category was to explain the process of divorce, then highlight the grounds under all the religions as per their personal laws, then address the ancillary issues such as alimony, child support and custody. Adding useful tips, check lists, case studies based on Deshmukh’s clientele and finally the frequently asked questions and advice.
“I wanted the book to convey to the general public what family laws are, what the divorce procedure is and what to do if faced with such situations. As the book says—it is to be considered as your first legal consultation. The main thing that I want my readers to take from the book is an understanding of what they are going to get into and what it entails. Also to be prepared to ask the right questions when the time comes and not be caught off-guard,” she says.
Even with years of experience and an impressive line-up of clientele behind her Deshmukh and her associate Garg faced challenges while writing Breaking Up... Garg says, “The most important challenge was not getting into too much legalese and keeping it simple for the general public. At the same time, it had to have solid data and be informative. How would anyone benefit from the book otherwise? Another challenge was to compile the laws and give detailed descriptions that men and women from all religions were alike, even NRIs and people who have married non-residential Indians, whether they have children or not, can take something away from this book.” Yet another challenge for them was writing all the case studies. “We also wanted to mention the lessons learned and come up with frequently asked questions that would satiate the mind of the curious reader,” she says.
Have divorces become an augmented reality in India? Breaking Up explains just that. “The way I look at it is that in today’s day and age, divorce is a reality and putting a book of this kind out there is more help than hindrance. These stories are important to be told because there is someone somewhere suffering in a similar manner. And if that person picks up this book and identifies with it, learns how to cope and deal with it, what they can do to make their situation a little better, this book was worth writing,” says Garg.