Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Divorce case, if women wealthy, not entitled to maintenance

Typically, divorce cases in India take a long time to settle; at the same time, as a reaction over the years to the country's social environment being strongly patriarchal, in favor of men, the laws that have evolved over the years to handle problems related to divorce and the economic needs of women who have separated from their husbands are more in favor of women. Women in divorce cases, or even in the case of separation are entitled to maintenance from their husbands. The man in such cases is also expected to pay for the expenses of growing up of children from such a marriage,
Now, this is perfectly fine. When you are in a marriage and are parents, there are some responsibilities and there are some duties both as a father and husband that have to be incurred. This is even more so in the case of a significant portion of Indian households where the wife is a housewife and the husband was the one who is working, and hence most of the assets and the income is in the name of the husband. But there are problems in this arrangement as well. The law and the judiciary do not seem to recognize some problems in this scenario - especially where the wife is capable of earning as well as the husband, or where she has a lot of assets. The law tends to be a bit blind in this area, and can be seen as not balanced. The argument is that women typically tend to be weaker economically and hence the reason for the bias in law, but weaker women would not suffer if the law took an equal position, and if the wife is capable of getting a good salary or already is rich / well-off and the husband equal or in a lower financial position, then it does not make sense to still award an alimony to her (in fact, all things being equal, as per an equal basis, the husband should be getting alimony). In this case (if it does not get over-turned on appeal), the court has given a ruling in favor of the husband and could be used as a precedent for cases such as these (link to article):
The Bombay high court has ruled that a woman is not entitled to claim maintenance in divorce cases if she is wealthy herself and is able to maintain her lifestyle despite the estrangement. The recent judgment was awarded by a division bench comprising justice AK Menon and justice AS Oka, while rejecting an application filed by a resident of Nariman Point, seeking enhancement of the alimony granted to her by a family court. The high court ruled that even after her divorce, there was no visible change in the woman’s lifestyle and she “continued to go on regular holidays abroad.” The division bench said this made her “ineligible for seeking any alimony, let alone an enhancement.” However, the bench decided not to interfere with the family court’s decision of awarding her the alimony of Rs25,000 each month.

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 1:01 AM