When a married couple decides to split ways and separate, the economically
weaker party has the right to ask for some money to cover his or her living
expenses. Alimony or maintenance is the name for the monetary award. When one
spouse in a marriage receives a monthly allowance from the other, this is known
as maintenance. Alimony, on the other hand, is a one-time payment made to the
economically weaker party, freeing the financially stronger party from any
further financial obligations resulting from the marriage.
Although, in a divorce, it is typically assumed that the husband is responsible
for providing alimony or maintenance to his wife. However, there have been
several instances where the wife has been required to do so. Therefore, a
petition for alimony or maintenance is not barred by a person's gender.
The obligation to care for and support the financially impaired spouse is not a
recent development in our culture. The first instance of alimony demands
occurred among the Hebrews, Egyptians, and Greeks. According to the Hammurabi
Code, a Mesopotamian husband who deserted his wife without good reason was
required to give up a silver coin.
Under Justinian I's rule, the Roman Law also mandated that the spouse who was
found guilty forfeit a piece of gold. The mediaeval church in England held that
divorce did not release either party from marriage's responsibilities.
As a result, the husband had to give his wife a sustenance allowance. The idea
of alimony quickly spread to other areas of the world, notably India, where
numerous Hindu jurists, including Yajnavalkya and Manu, steadfastly supported a
husband's obligation to support his wife despite whatever disagreements the two
Laws under which a party can claim alimony
- The Special Marriage Act of 1954's Section 37
- Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Section 25
- Indian Divorce Act of 1869, Sections 36 to 38
Types of Alimony
Temporary alimony is awarded while a divorce or judicial separation petition is
pending and can be paid in monthly instalments. Temporary alimony is payable for
a specific amount of time.
After the legal separation or divorce has been finalised, permanent alimony is
granted. The alimony awarded in this case is for an infinite amount of time and
terminates upon the death or remarriage of the party receiving it.
Rehabilitative Alimony is only paid when the non-earning spouse is actively
looking for employment or other sources of income to support themselves. It is a
temporary arrangement to aid the non-earning spouse in developing skills or
locating a secure employment for themselves.
Reimbursement alimony is the payment made to the spouse who incurred particular
costs, such as those related to their schooling or those that increased the
other spouse's income.
Factors taken into consideration while deciding Alimony:Financial status of the parties
The financial situation of both parties to the marriage must be taken into
consideration while determining the amount of alimony. The ability of the
parties to the marriage to support themselves must be understood at all costs.
Once that is established, the court must decide whether to issue alimony to the
party seeking it or not, as well as whether it should be permanent or only
temporary in nature.
Social life of the parties
Another essential factor to take into account is how the parties have been
conducting their lives up until the start of the proceedings. It must be
remembered that any alimony awarded must fit the lifestyle of the party seeking
The conduct of the parties
When determining the amount of alimony, the behaviour of the parties to the
marriage is an important factor. If either partner has a history of cruelty or
adultery, that must be taken into consideration while determining alimony.
Duration of marriage
If the parties have not been married for a very long time, then generally
the alimony so granted is temporary as it is believed that the parties are still
young and have the capacity to earn money and sustain themselves.
The alimony, however, is typically permanent if the pair has been married for a
long period, and the paying party is required to support the incapacitated
spouse until the receiving party's death or remarriage. Simply put, when the
paying party dies, the obligation to pay alimony remains in place. In such a
case, the estate that was left behind is used to pay the alimony.
Custody of the kid
Given that they are required to pay for all child care costs, the party with
custody of the kid is seen as having greater obligation. In this situation, the
courts must carefully consider the amount of alimony to make sure that both the
child and the person who is raising the child are well-cared for financially.
Health conditions of the parties
If one of the parties to the marriage who is requesting alimony is afflicted
with a medical or mental disease, the other party is morally obligated to pay
for those costs or reimburse them, if the afflicted person is unable to do so
due to their deteriorating health.
Age of the Parties
Age is a key factor in determining the amount of alimony. A perpetual alimony is
awarded to the aggrieved party if the party seeking alimony has reached an age
when it is extremely difficult for him or her to obtain job or is physically
unable to do so. But if the party seeking alimony is young and capable, a
provisional award will be made while still taking into account the other
The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India noted in U. Sree v. U. Srinivas
(12) JT 358 that there is no mathematical formula to be kept in mind when
determining alimony because several considerations are taken into account. But
it is the court's responsibility to make sure the wife lives comfortably, if not
The Hon'ble Calcutta High Court ruled in Bandana Kayal Alias Singh v. Arun
(1989) 1 Cal LJ 503 that the husband would be required to pay
alimony to his wife if he was employed at the time the lawsuit was filed. The
fact that he quit his work before or right after the petition was filed would
not prevent the wife from requesting alimony.
Similar reasoning was used in Reema Salkan v. Sumer Singh Salkan
12 SCC 303, where the Hon'ble Delhi High Court noted that if the husband has
educational credentials and is physically abled, his moral obligation to support
his wife does not get excused merely because he is not working at the time.
The Hon'ble Calcutta High Court ruled in the matter of Mayurakshi Basu v.
(2013) 1 ICC 391 that the amount of alimony paid to the wife
should be atleast one-third of her husband's net worth.
The Hon'ble Delhi High Court ruled in Manish Jain v. Akanksha Jain
15 SCC 801 that the financial situation of the wife's parents should not be
taken into consideration for determining the amount of alimony or maintenance.
The purpose of alimony was to provide financial assistance to the financially
disabled spouse in order to enable him or her to live a pleasant and respectable
life. But in my opinion, our society severely abuses the provision of alimony.
It is no longer so much of a necessity as a way of life.
Couples seek alimony
payments not to maintain themselves financially but to bother the other spouse.
The improper behaviour by the parties is very regrettable. The original intent
for paying alimony has been overshadowed and given a completely new meaning.
When handling situations of this kind, our legal system needs to create a
thorough evaluation methodology.
Written By: Ameesha Goel