Under the Indian law, alimony is the monetary compensation granted to the spouse who is unable to support himself/herself, by the other spouse, during or after the divorce proceedings. When this sum is given during the court proceedings, it is the maintenance amount, and the same term is used in the various statutes such as the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. After separation the alimony may be taken as a lump-sump or a fixed payment which maybe given monthly, quarterly etc. Civil law such as The Special Marriage Act 1954 and Section 125 Code of Criminal Procedure are the common laws for all, however, The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872 and the Indian Divorce Act are applicable to Christians; Shariat Law and Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 and the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights of Divorce) Act, 1986 apply to Muslims and for Parsis, there is a separate marriage and divorce act.
Maintenance is granted only if an application is filed before it, by a man or a woman, and further the discretion lies with it to investigate and decide whether alimony is to be awarded or not. There are various factors that affect the amount of alimony, such as:
- The income of the wife if she is earning, will cause a reduction or increase in the maintenance granted by the court.
- The living standard of the wife/husband if they are not earning.
- If the wife remarries, the husband need not pay any maintenance after that.
- If husband is disabled and cannot earn, wife is asked to pay alimony.
- The longer the marriage, or the greater number of children and emotional investment, the larger the sum is expected to be.
- A spouses’ actions during marriage, such as, adultery, harassment of the other spouse etc affect the amount as well.
Mentioned above are only a few dimensions that are looked into and apart from these, the court sets other tests for amount assumption.
This mandate of the court is subject to change, and so, the amount decided need not be fixed per se. For example, if the husband finds a source of income and the wife is still asked to pay alimony to him, it would be unfair for her. Furthermore, the court also takes into consideration a lawful marriage, and no mistress of unlawful second wife can claim alimony, although children from the second marriage can claim child support.
All maintenance paid is taxable amount and so spouses usually, while paying alimony, deduct this tax amount from the sum that is to be paid to the other spouse as per court order. Further, the amount usually never goes beyond 1/5th of the husband’s income, although in a landmark case in April 2017, the Apex Court ordered a Bengal resident to pay 25% of his salary as ‘just and proper’ maintenance, that will ensure that his wife could lead a dignified life after separating from her husband.