Alimony - a financially dependent divorced woman's right
Under divorce and matrimonial laws, one of the most important aspects is the right to receive and claim alimony. Originally derived from the Latin word, ‘Alimonia’, meaning sustenance, it generally means an amount or allowance that a court orders a husband to pay to the wife for her sustenance. Every community has its own rules and personal laws; thus, the grounds on which a Hindu woman can seek a divorce and alimony also vary. For example, under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955, both the man and wife can legally claim alimony and maintenance. However, under the Special Marriage Act, 1954, only the wife is entitled to the same.
When the divorce happens by mutual consent, it is a matter of agreement between them as to whether the alimony is to be paid by either party! It depends on the mutual understanding between them to decide whether the husband will pay alimony to the wife or vice-versa. On basis of the terms agreed upon, by the couple, the court passes the order which then becomes binding on the couple. In contested matters, however, there is an intervention on the part of the court on the issue of alimony. Depending upon the facts and circumstances, as well as the merits of each case the court passes a decree, and also determines the amount of alimony; in certain cases, there may be no alimony involved at all, and that entirely depends on the discretion of the court.
When it comes to the payment of alimony to the wife, there are several factors that the court takes into consideration. Firstly, the status of the husband, his income, his assets and lifestyle etc. are major determinants in determining a justified amount that is to be awarded to her wife as alimony. The wants of the wife are analyzed such as whether there is a minor child under her care, the duration of the marriage, etc. However, as mentioned earlier, in rare cases where the husband earns less than her or nothing at all, the wife pays alimony; in most cases though, the husband is supposed to maintain her throughout her life. However, if the wife remarries, the husband is absolved of this financial responsibility and can petition the court to pass an order to stop the alimony. Similarly, is the husband, due to any reason, faces any sort of economic crisis, or any such other adverse situation, or, the wife gains financial independence and starts earning a decent salary, then too, the husband may appeal to the court to address the changes in the circumstances, and modify its orders accordingly, on the basis of facts and evidences.
If the husband’s income increases after the amount of alimony has already been decided, then the wife may make a petition about it but she will have to prove her inability to maintain herself with the amount that is already being awarded to her. The court may, under such circumstances, increase the amount payable or keep it unchanged, as the wife is not eligible to get more alimony just because the husband’s income has increased. On the other hand, if the person ( let’s say the wife) receiving alimony gets richer, then the husband will have to prove it to the court. If the wife is proven to be richer than what she was when alimony was granted to her, or the husband’s inability to maintain the wife, or if rather he claims alimony to be paid to him, then again the court will decide after looking into the various parameters.
Thus, a woman should, first and foremost, be armed with the knowledge of such meticulous details so that she is never in the darkness. Ignorance will only thrust her further into the abyss. She should be enlightened with what she deserves justly and how she can procure the same for herself.