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Delhi court grants divorce to cricketer Shikhar Dhawan

Officially dissolving his 11-year marriage, the court noted the mutual consent for divorce and the absence of cohabitation as husband and wife since August 8, 2020. While addressing the custody of their minor son, the court considered moral concerns and the pending criminal case against the respondent

Cricketer Shikhar Dhawan granted divorce from Aesha Mukherjee by Delhi family court
First Published Oct 5, 2023, 8:55 AM IST

A Delhi family court on Wednesday officially granted a divorce to the cricketer Shikhar Dhawan and his estranged wife Aesha Mukherjee, citing the petitioner's entitlement to a divorce decree on grounds of cruelty. Judge Harish Kumar of the family court, while dissolving their 11-year marriage, noted, "Both parties had mutually consented to the divorce, and it's evident that their marriage had effectively ended long ago, with no cohabitation as husband and wife since August 8, 2020."

The court also observed that the respondent, Dhawan's estranged wife, intentionally chose not to contest the divorce, indicating her willingness for the court to grant the divorce, even if it meant being held accountable for matrimonial misconduct. This decision was influenced by her favourable legal outcomes in the Federal Circuit and Family Court in Australia.

In light of these circumstances, the court concluded that the petitioner deserved a divorce decree based on grounds of cruelty as defined in Section 13(1)(a) of the Hindu Marriage Act. Consequently, the marriage, which had been solemnized on December 30, 2012, in accordance with Sikh rites at Gurudwara, Nelson Mandela Marg, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, was dissolved.

The court also addressed the issue of the permanent custody of the minor son, acknowledging the petitioner's moral, psychological, and mental concerns regarding the child's well-being in the respondent's care. Furthermore, the fact that a criminal case was pending against the respondent was taken into consideration as a factor in favour of the petitioner.

The custody matter was complex due to prior legal proceedings in both India and Australia. The court in Australia directed the petitioner to withdraw his custody claims in India, while the Delhi court, in an order dated March 2, 2023, instructed the respondent to withdraw her custody proceedings in Australia. This was due to the "doctrine of forum convenience," and the child's Australian citizenship and residence in Australia.

However, the court ordered that subject to the child's academic schedule, the respondent must bring the child to India for visitation purposes, including overnight stays with the petitioner and his family members, for at least half of the school vacation period during the academic calendar. Additionally, the respondent was obligated to facilitate unsupervised meetings between the child and the petitioner in Australia whenever he visited with advance notice.

Shikhar Dhawan's plea revealed that he had discovered post-marriage that the respondent's primary motive for marrying him was to extort a significant amount of money. She had allegedly threatened to fabricate defamatory material against him and tarnish his cricketing career unless he complied with her financial demands.

In response to her demands, the petitioner purchased three properties in Australia with his own funds but was coerced into making the respondent the 99% owner of one property and a joint owner of two others. The respondent had also acquired a substantial portion of the proceeds from the sale of one property and the entire proceeds from the sale of another property while insisting on the transfer of the title of a third property to her, as stated in Shikhar Dhawan's plea.

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