Whatever be the grounds for divorce, the fundamental truth of marriage is that once a couple is married, it becomes their responsibility to support each other. Alimony is a type of support that lasts after a divorce. Though alimony is a vital issue to address during the course of a divorce case, the right to seek financial support for post-divorce maintenance was not a well-known idea among Indian divorcees, particularly women, till a few years ago. The right to receive and claim alimony is one of the most essential rights under divorce and matrimonial laws. The word ‘Alimony’ comes from the Latin word ‘Alimonia’, which means sustenance. In general, alimony refers to an amount or allowance that a court requires the husband to pay to the wife for her support. It is a monetary award made to a spouse who is unable to assist him or herself. The right to alimony is determined by the person’s earning capacity and the person who is financially reliant on the marriage. The person could be a spouse, a dependent child, or even a poor parent. People are becoming more aware of the numerous intricacies linked to divorce legislation as the rate of divorce in India continues to rise. The expanding applicability of alimony in divorce proceedings has been aided by feminist efforts and the increase of education among women.
Factors affecting Alimony
• The most important factor affecting the amount and duration of Alimony is the lifespan of the marriage. If any marriage has sustained for more than ten years then the wife is usually entitled to lifelong alimony.
• When determining alimony, the age of the spouse is also taken into account. A young alimony recipient is usually granted alimony for a shorter amount of time if the court believes that he or she will soon be able to become financially self-sufficient through future professional success.
• Alimony is also popular to balance the financial situation of both spouses. The higher-earning spouse is responsible for paying a significant sum of alimony.
• The spouse who is expected to have a successful career will be responsible for a large alimony payment.
• If one of the spouses is in poor health, the other must pay a large alimony payment to ensure the other spouse’s proper medication and well-being.
• If the wife is completely unable to earn a living owing to a physical impairment or a lack of education, the husband is required to pay her a set sum on a monthly or quarterly basis for her to live a dignified life.
• When the wife is not earning but is well educated and qualified to work, the court shall order the woman to find work and pass an order to pay maintenance of a particular amount by is husband to support her during the duration of her job hunt.
• Ex-wives, who are in relationships with other men, whether or not they intend to marry, are not entitled to alimony (as per Section 125(4) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973).
The Alimony right of either of the spouse comes to an end when the spouse receiving the alimony remarries. If the woman remarries or has a romantic relationship with someone else, she is no longer eligible for alimony from her ex-husband. When the wife remarries, the husband can apply to the court to have the alimony clause changed so that he is no longer obligated to pay it to the ex-wife. If the wife remarries but conceals the fact from her ex-husband and continues to get alimony, the husband has the right to file a fraud case against her. If this happens, together with a case of fraud, the husband may be able to collect the money he gave to the ex-wife back.
In the case of Junesh Kumar s/o Kashiram Talmale v. Sou. Mrunal w/o Junesh Kumar , Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court held that after divorce, the wife could seek maintenance from her former husband until her second marriage. A woman is only entitled to monthly maintenance from her spouse until her second marriage. This means that the monthly maintenance she has been getting from her husband throughout and after their divorce cannot be continued if she remarries.
In the case of Kalyan Dey Chowdhury v. Rita Dey Chowdhury, The Supreme Court decreased alimony payments for a divorced lady, ruling that her ex-husband was required to support his new family, including a child born to him. The Supreme Court upheld the high court’s decision because it was consistent with the Supreme Court’s opinion, which stated that the dependent estranged spouse and her children might normally be given 25% of the husband’s income.
Alimony and divorce maintenance laws are equal for both spouses, and the richer spouse is expected to assist the financially weaker spouse. This is mostly done to secure a couple’s improved livelihood. In various circumstances, either of the spouses remarries and the other person is no more under an obligation to maintain his/ her spouse. Relevant considerations such as the number of dependents who require support, their particular needs, the lifestyle of the parties, and so on may influence the amount of alimony and should be taken into account. Although the amount of alimony in India is currently decided at the Court’s discretion, it would be beneficial for a special committee to examine this issue in detail as it may be applicable for each community and provide advisory guidelines enumerating relevant considerations that should be factored in when deciding issues pertaining maintenance and alimony.