The West Pakistan Family Courts Act, 1964 (hereinafter referred as Act) was promulgated on 8th July 1964 for the protection of family, marriage and issues arising out of it and to avoid unnecessary delays in the family matters. The basic purpose of the act is the advancement of justice and expeditious trial of family matters.

Thus this act empowers the Family Courts to grant better and speedy relief. The act provides jurisdiction to the Family Court under Clause 5 Schedule 1 to examine, arbitrate, and judge upon the following matters;

  • Dissolution of marriage by way of Khula.
  • Restitution of conjugal rights
  • Custody of children and the visitation rights of parents to meet them.
  • Maintenance
  • Guardianship
  • Jactitation of marriage
  • Dowry
  • The property and belongings of a wife and a child living with his mother.
  • Any other issue arising out of the


Inherent Jurisdiction of Family Court:

This Act provides the absolute jurisdiction to the Family Courts in the country to try and adjudicate upon the issues mentioned above and to try the offences set out in Part II of the Schedule, i.e. 337A (i), 337F (i),341, 342, 343, 344, 345, 346, 352 and 509 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Territorial Jurisdiction of the Family Court:

The Rule 6 of the West Pakistan Family Court Act, 1964 sets out the territorial jurisdiction of the Court i.e. the family court will have a jurisdiction in both cases where the parties resides and where the cause of action arise. Under the said Act a special proviso is also provided that is where the case is of either dissolution of marriage or dower, the court where the women “ordinary resides” will have a jurisdiction to try the suit.

The court in the reported case[1], discussed the issue of the “ordinary resides” by stating that the legislative intent behind this provision was ease to the wife and there are no criteria for the time frame for which a wife has to reside at a particular time rather at any place where she has come to reside.

Institution of the Family Suit:


Section 7 of the Act describes the method of the institution of the suit i.e. every suit has to be instituted by the presentation of the plaint from the plaintiff side. The plaint should contain all facts on which the party relaying regarding the dispute along with the list of witnesses in favor of the plaintiff if any, their addresses and a brief summary of the fact on which the witness willing to give deposition.

However, under the proviso a special option also provided to the parties where they can at later stage call any witness through the permission of the court, if the court considers that presence of such witness can ease the way towards the dispense of justice. In the reported case,[2]  the court held that there is no prohibition exists in the Act for the production of witnesses, if it is not mentioned earlier in the list provided by the parties. Similarly, in the case of 2004 CLC 635, the court stated that the word “further” in the provision of Section 7 (2) of the Act manifests the intention of legislature to grant the permission liberally if the Court considers such evidence expedient and essential for a just decision.

The law for the ease of justice also provided under sub-section 7 of the Act that a plant for termination of marriage can also contain all claims of the party related to dowry, maintenance, dower, custody of children and visitation rights of the both of parents. Moreover, if a husband did not file a prior suit for restitution of conjugal rights, he may claim the said in his written statement to the suit for termination of marriage or filed by wife.

The court in the reported case,[3] held that in order to avoid the multiplicity of proceedings and in the larger interest of justice and fairness, the claim for termination of marriage and claim for payment of differed dower may be entertained simultaneously by the Family Court and the claim for a decree of payment of differed dower is dependent upon the granting of the decree of termination of marriage

. Similarly, in the case of PLJ 1974 LHC 256 the court held that notice under section 7 of the MFLO 1961 is not necessary before the institution of the suit for termination of marriage or any other family case.

The principle of res judicata is not applicable to the family suit to a certain extent as in the reported case,[4] the court held that a wife may apply for divorce on the ground of being habitually beaten, lack or maintenance, etc. but if she fails that will not give a right to husband to not pay maintenance by saying that she cannot go the court again and get a decree on the same ground.

 Where a husband instituted suit for restitution of conjugal rights and it has decreed by court, subsequently when wife file suit for termination of marriage by way of khula, thus this plea of res judicata will not be entertain by the courts. If the suit for dissolution of marriage is not decided on merits and dismissed for non-prosecution in such scenario subsequent suit is not barred.

According to another reported case[5], it is not necessary for the plaintiff to mention her cause of action (separate para) in the contents of the plaints. The title and contents of the plaint as a whole should indicate the cause of action.

Written Statement:

On the date fixed plaintiff and defendant has to appear before the Court and the defendant have to file his written statement along with the list of the witness if any including a precise summary of evidence each witness has to depose.

According to Section 9 of the Act, where no prior suit for restitution of conjugal right is instituted by a husband, he can claim such in his written statement for a suit for termination of marriage by a wife. Moreover, that claim will consider as a separate plaint and thus no special suit is required.

Similarly, where the wife has instituted no prior suit for a termination of marriage, she being defendant can claim such in a suit for conjugal right. That claim will be consider as separate plaint and no special suit is required

The Court has the ample power to proceed ex parte, where it is proved that the notices or summons have been duly served on the defendant and the defendant still did not appear before the family court on the fixed date of hearing.

The court after announcing ex parte decree is bound to send notices and certified copy of such decree to the defendant. An ex parte decree against a defendant under this act can only be set-aside within 30 days of the decree issued and service of notices. Moreover, within that said period the defendant can satisfy the court which passed the ex parte decree that either the notices were not duly served or he was prevented by any sufficient cause to appear before the court.

The court if satisfied, can set-aside ex parte decree provided that a decree is of no such nature which cannot be set aside and appoint a new day for proceeding of the suit.

According to the reported case[6] of apex court, the court is bound and has power to strike of the defense of a husband in a suit for recovery of the dower amount and pass a decree if he did not file a written statement directed by the Family Court. Moreover, in the reported case,[7] the court held that where the defendant has failed to appear and file a written statement, Family Court has to debar him from filing a written statement.

In the cited case an affidavit was filed for recalling said order without any cogent reason for absence and the court dismissed such an appeal. Contrary to that in the reported case[8], the defendant filed an affidavit in support of his application denied the service of summons. The signature on the affidavit and copy of summon produced by the bailiff were different.

The court stated that “dismissal of an application by Family court simply on the ground that ex parte order had already been announced is no reason in the eye of the law, such a bald observation negates the provision of Section 9 and such a slipshod and rough order is to be refrained from while performing the duty of judicial dispensation”.

In the reported case[9], the petitioner was given the opportunity to submit his written statement but could not submit it. The court held that Section 9 proviso 1 read with Section 9 proviso 5 of the Family Court Act provides a period of 15 days for filing of a written statement and time could be extended where the defendant established sufficient reason, which prevented him from filing the same.


Pre-Trial Proceedings:

At this stage, the court examines the plaint, written statement if submitted, evidence on record and if it possible hears the parties and their counsel. The basic purpose of the pre-trail proceeding is to make an effort for a settlement by mutual consideration and conciliation between the parties if possible.

If the reconciliation fails, the court will start the trial by framing of issues and recording of evidence. The court in the reported case[10], stated as the “word ‘reconciliation’ postulates adoption of such measures as can be proved as a factor for harmonious union between the spouses after redress of grievances which had led them to have recourse to litigation.

Family Court should act as arbitrator in exercising judicial power to organize compromise with a view to saving matrimonial life from further deterioration”.


Recording of Evidence:

On the day fixed for recording of evidence, the Court will examine the witness of both of the parties in such sequence as it deems fit. Within three days of the framing of the issue, each party must submit to the court that it intends to produce a witness and summon may issue through the court for that witness.

The witness can give their deposition either through affidavit or in their own words as may permit by the court. Further, both counsels have a choice to examine, cross-examine or re-examine the witnesses which provided the deposition. The court in the reported case[11], established that the Family Courts must not add and modified additional issues at a later stage as it is a violation of section 11(2) of the Act.

However, the Family Court has power to allow any additional evidence by any of party at later stage under Section 7 of the Act, if it is necessary for expeditious justice.


Post-Trial Reconciliation and Pronouncement of Judgement: 

In this stage, the Family Court will once again make an effort for the mutual consideration and settlement between the both of parties within fifteen days of recording of evidence and framing of issues. If such compromise is failed once again, the Court will announce the judgement and grant the decree.


The West Pakistan Family Court Act, 1964 is a complete code for the speedy agreement and disposal of disputes relating to family matters. It is comprehensive procedural law on matrimonial issues and provides a good competitive mechanism to adjudicate and try family cases in Pakistan.

However, this enactment needs to be re-visited keeping in view the modern best practices adopted around the world for the settlement of family cases, especially from the Muslim countries jurisdiction as we are a Muslim country and primarily Sharia law applies to family matters.

Furthermore, the provisions relating to modern evidences, modern electronic devices and recording of evidences through electronic means may also be incorporated in this enactment as due to globalization, marital issues are no longer limited to the country’s own jurisdiction but also extends to other jurisdictions.



[1] Mahbub Ahmed versus First Additional District Judge  PLD 1976 SHC 978

[2] Malik Irfan versus Zubi Irfan  MLD 2004 635

[3] Anwarul Hasan versus Family Judge Court III  PLD 1980 SHC 477

[4] Ghulam Muhammad versus Rashida Bibi  PLD 1983 LHC 442

[5] Muhammad Sharif versus Additional District Judge  2007 SCMR 49

[6] Faiz-ul-Hassan versus Jan Sultan  2001 SCMR 1323

[7] Muhammad Kamran versus Presiding Officer  CLC 2012 295

[8] Dr. Zafer Ahmed versus  PLD 2002 524 SHC

[9] Sajawal versus Judge Family Court  YLR 2020 359

[10] Dilshad Sultana versus Noor Muhammad PLD 1993 1 BHC

[11] Asghar Mehmod versus Judge Family court   PLD 2002 410 LHC

Note: This article is written by Muhammad Tahir Shabbir  Law student at Ziauddin University Faculty of Law, Politics and Governance.

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