FAQ's

Law relating to marriage and mental illness

If I have a mental illness or am declared of unsound mind, am I eligible for a valid marriage?

  • In India, each religion has its own personal laws to govern the institution of marriage. In some religions, a marriage is not legally recognized (or can be annulled) if one of the parties is of unsound mind. In such cases, it effectively results in a situation where the marriage did not take place at all. In others, it provides a ground for divorce. Here is how the different personal laws of each religion deal with mental illness and marriage.

    For Hindus

    Section 5 of the Hindu Marriage Act deals with the conditions necessary for a valid Hindu marriage. Clause (ii) of this section talks about mental illness as follows:

    At the time of marriage, neither party:

    • Should be incapable of giving valid consent due to unsoundness of mind.
    • Should be suffering from a mental disorder of such kind or to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage and procreation.
    • Should have been suffering recurring attacks of insanity.

    According to Section 12 of the Act, if any of these conditions are not met, the marriage is voidable and may be annulled when the aggrieved spouse approaches the court.

    For Muslims

    Under Muslim law, persons of unsound mind and minors can be validly contracted into marriage by their legal guardian. Such marriage is considered valid in the eyes of law.

    For Parsis

    Under the Parsi law, unsoundness of mind of one of the parties does not invalidate a marriage and is recognized in law.

    For Christians

    The Christian matrimony laws do not talk about mental illness or unsoundness of mind at all. If a party is of unsound mind at the time of marriage, it does not render the marriage void.

    For secular marriages under the Special Marriage Act

    Under this Act, unsoundness of mind is a condition that renders the marriage invalid. It says that a marriage is void if at the time of the marriage, either party:

    • Is unable to give valid consent due to unsoundness of mind.

    • Are able to give valid consent, but are suffering from a mental disorder so severe that it renders them unfit for marriage or procreation.

    • Has been suffering recurring attacks of insanity.

My spouse has been suffering from a severe mental illness and it’s impossible for me to go on with this relationship. Is there a ground for divorce in this situation?

  • As stated above, in many cases, severe mental illness or unsoundness of mind is a ground for declaring a marriage void in some cases. However, personal laws relating to marriage differ in our country and it is also possible that your spouse was not of unsound mind or suffering from a mental illness at the time of marriage. In such cases, you have the following remedies depending on the personal laws governing your marriage.

    For Hindus

    Under Section 13 of the Hindu Marriage Act, you may file for divorce if your spouse has been continuously or intermittently suffering from a severe mental disorder, because of which you cannot reasonably be expected to live with your mentally ill spouse.

    For Muslims

    If you are a woman, you can apply for the dissolution of your marriage under the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act if your husband has been insane for a period of two years.

    For Parsis

    If your spouse was of unsound mind at the time of marriage and continues to be so till the time that you approach the court, then the divorce shall be granted. However, you have to prove that you were unaware of this fact at the time of the marriage, and the suit for divorce has to be made within 3 years from the date of the marriage.

    You may also apply for divorce if your spouse has been of unsound mind for a period of two years or has been suffering from a mental illness so severe that it cannot reasonably expected for you to continue living with your spouse.

    For Christians

    Under the Indian Divorce Act, you have a ground for divorce if the following conditions are met:

    • Your spouse's condition is 'incurable' and there must be medical evidence to show this.

    • Their condition should have existed for at least two years before the filing of the divorce petition.

    For secular marriages under the Special Marriage Act

    Mental illness is a ground for divorce if your spouse has been suffering for a significant period of time from a mental disorder which is so severe that it cannot be reasonably expected of you to continue living with them.