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First a YSL wedding & now, divorce tourism?

GOA IS a popular destination for " wedding tourism" but with the ugly divorce battle between supermodel Ujjwala Raut and Craig Maxwell Sterry, the state can lay claim to having put us on the map for " divorce tourism" as well.

Craig, in one of his innumerable allegations against Ujjwala -- he has said, among other things, that Ujjwala went at him with a knife, is a negligent mother and a scheming supermodel out to get him deported through her " influence" -- has also said that the jet- setting Ujjwala, who has lived in New York and Paris, only moved to Goa because she wanted to initiate divorce proceedings against him in India and he himself would have liked to contest the divorce in New York.

Ujjwala, for her part, has claimed in interviews that she moved back to India because she wanted her daughter to " know where she was from." With India and New York becoming such a point of contention in this battle, this can safely be called India's first public case of divorce tourism.

Bizarrely, a more Bollywoodised version of divorce tourism also made the news in the week that the couple of the " YSL wedding" fame -- Ujjwala was a YSL model who wore a YSL gown when she exchanged vows with Craig, who also dressed in YSL from head to toe, in Manhattan -- were throwing their ugly allegations at each other.

An Indian tour company was publicising, in what is a completely different spin on the subject, its first ever Indian " divorce tourism" package to Goa. Mumbai- based KV Tours & Travels announced a special offer where couples- on- theedge of divorce can get away to " fun and romantic" locations like Goa to spend quality time together -- the package comes with marriage counselling and spiritual knowledge thrown in. " The carefully planned vacations facilitate revival of feelings and relationships, and help the couples rescue their marriages," said Vijesh Thakkar, CEO, KV Tours & Travels.

While this could be a lesson in break- up love inspired by Love Aaj Kal , " divorce tourism" around the world is generally acknowledged as having disturbing undertones.

A cynical term, it is used for cases of " international marriages" like those between Craig, a British born New Yorker who now lives in Goa, and Ujjwala, an Indian born model who worked in Paris and New York before she moved back home.

Divorce tourism is a term reserved for instances where one partner rushes off to initiate divorce proceedings in a country where he/ she believes the divorce settlements will favour his/ her gender.

LONDON, for instance, has the dubious distinction of being the divorce capital of the world with women from other European countries flocking to the city -- provided they can show they are domiciled or habitual residents of England -- to initiate divorce proceedings owing to laws which are far less generous to men than those in Scotland, where divorce laws are more conservative and less financially beneficial to women.

" Forum shopping" is a common term in law circles for clients choosing where to file for divorce.

Divorce tourism is a phenomenon attributed to the rich, who can afford to have a home in more than one country.

When asked about " divorce tourism", even top lawyers in India are stumped. Not only does the legal system in India does not grant divorce easily, the justice procedure in India is so cumbersome that it is not the top- most destination that comes to mind. " One does not hear of people coming to India for divorces because India is not an easy place to get a divorce," says lawyer Manali Singhal," but adds: " when a divorce does take place, custody of a minor child is ordinarily given to the mother, while in America, it could be given to the mother or the father or even to a foster home." Malvika Rajkotia, a top divorce lawyer, says: " While in the west the settlement is split down the middle, in India, while redress is available, divorce proceedings are loosely worded and can generally be seen as favouring men in financial settlements and women in custody battles." Remember, that at the centre of Ujjwala's divorce battle is the couple's three- year- old daughter.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Aug 23, 2009
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