A family court in Mumbai recently created a stir by ruling that a woman who is well-qualified and is sitting idle cannot claim maintenance from the husband she has divorced. Though the ruling was specific to the case and can be challenged in a higher court, in India men usually pay the alimony in the event of divorce. However, there have been exceptions, and it helps to know the basics of maintenance laws.Simply put, alimony is a monetary compensation granted to the spouse who is unable to support himselfherself. Says Mumbai-based advocate Jai Vaidya, “The compensation depends on matrimonial laws specific to specific religions. Or, civil laws like the Special Marriage Act 1954 and 125 CrPC Common Social Welfare Law .“ The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, applies to all marriage and divorce, for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists. The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872, and the amended Indian Divorce Act apply to Christians. For Parsis, there is the Marriage and Divorce Act for Parsis. Shariat Law and the Dissolution of Muslim Act, 1937, apply to Muslim marriages.
TYPES OF ALIMONIES
According to Mumbai-based family lawyer Mrinalini Deshmukh, there are two types of alimony . “When it’s given during the time of the court proceedings, it is a maintenance amount. The second is when it’s given after the legal separation,“ she explains. After separation, alimony can be taken either as a one-time lump sum amount or a fixed payment, which could be monthly , quarterly and the like, depending on the requirement of the spouse.
WHO IS ENTITLED TO IT?
More often than not it’s the woman who gets the alimony from the husband. However, there have been cases where the court has ordered the wife to pay her husband. In July 2014, a Gandhinagar family court ordered a woman, Rajvinder Kaur, to pay alimony to her husband Dalbir Singh, who had accused her of physical and mental torture. Vaidya says, “Though the law is not changing, the interpretation of the law is changing over time.“
Sometimes, the odds appear to be stacked against one party . In June 2014, a Pune magistrate ordered a jobless husband to pay alimony to his wife, who had a steady income.
As far as the stree dhan is concerned, a woman has exclusive rights over it.
HOW MUCH TO PAY
The court decides the amount of alimony or maintenance after examining various parameters such as the income of the spous es, their standard of living and financial status. Both spouse’s income, investments and net worth, as well as the financial needs of the individuals are taken into account.“Though there isn’t a fixed formula to quantify the amount, generally it is in the range of one fifth to one third of the gross earnings of the spouse who has to pay alimony,“ says Deshmukh.The number of years the couple has been married, the number of children and the kind of emotional investment made are also considered. The husband can request stopping of payment or reducing the amount, if the wife manages to get another source of income. While choosing the mode of p ay m e n t , t h e lump sum is a preferred option. Lump sum gives certainty . A regular fixed pay out can stop after a while due to reasons like the supporting spouse losing his or her source of income or death. “The lump sum amount is not taxable as you get it as capital receipt. However, if investments made from this amount earn returns, the return is taxable,“ says Deshmukh. The monthly payment route is taxable to the spouse who gets it.
Once the court passes the order, the supporting spouse has to pay alimony till the receiving spouse remarries. If payments are not made on time, there are consequences. “The court has in the past ordered a husband’s employer to deduct an amount equivalent to the alimony from his salary and pay it directly to the wife,“ says Deshmukh. In 2014, filmmaker Gaurang Doshi faced contempt-of-court for not standing by his undertakings to the Bombay High Court in a case filed by his wife Madhuri.