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Will Supreme Court consider equal distribution of assets of husband and wife

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Supreme Court of India, Supreme CourtAdv. Pratibha Bangera (Advocate and legal Expert in Divorce and Family law) stresses need for having guidelines for maintenance with our Editor-in-chief Dr Vaidehi Taman.

What does the statue say about maintenance in family matters?

Maintenance is a right of a married dependent spouse who does not have his or her own independent source of income. While the husband can ask for maintenance under any of the applicable law, it is also the duty of the husband to maintain his wife and children. Especially if the wife does not have an independent source of income.

What if the wife is a working woman is she still entitled to get maintenance?

A working woman is also entitled to get maintenance especially if she is taking care of the marital household and the children born from the marriage.

What is the biggest hurdle in maintenance cases these days?

There are no fixed Supreme Court guidelines on computation of income. While it is easy to establish a salaried person’s income and also attach property of husband’s assets if he owns it, the business man may manipulate his income and asset and show losses and this is the most challenging issue these days. Most importantly it is done to force the wife to agree for divorce in bargain. Till date there is no criterion or yardstick on how such amounts should be calculated uniformly all over the country. The disparity of income classes in the country has further made it difficult while deciding cases. While the very poor and affluent are standing before the same judge, decisions are made upon circumstances of the case and not the actual income capacity of the spouse or his capacity to pay.

Does duration of marriage make any difference to the amount granted by court?

Not really. If the husband has a source of income which can be proven (shown by husband) the wife may still win a good maintenance. The husband however can Appeal against any unjust order and ask for stay of such order and also ask for reduction of such amount granted.

What is interim maintenance amount granted by court?

The court takes into account duration of marriage, children born from such marriage, grounds on which the application for maintenance was filed, income of husband and similar factors and then passes decision. However there is acute need for such guidelines because lot of wives and mothers are waiting due to lack of court intervention even after order of maintenance is passed and are forced to apply for “distress warrant” to force the husband to pay by making him criminally liable to pay on time. Further the husbands may pay part of the amount of arrears and seek extension of time to pay the balance amount as most of the time such amounts are payable from date of filing of application. Since there are no strict guidelines to determine these amounts, or safeguard interest of the wife or even interest of the husband who may be innocent in some cases the need for guidelines is highest now,

Does the Indian woman feel victimized due to this?

The Supreme Court is likely to frame guidelines to establish “real income” as per “lifestyle and “standard of living” or “capacity” of the husband to pay. However there are no directions to lower court so far. A Reference Application to High court by any aggrieved wife may be required to be made to seek directions from Higher court or Supreme Court to give directions to lower court instead of taking matters for Appeal. These are matters which should be decided on highest priority.

How do husbands misuse and abuse process of law?

It is common practice to delay making payment on time or deny essentials such as rent or grocery or household essentials or also school fees in some cases. There are many such pending cases especially having a disturbing effect on the wife thereby driving her to such a point that she comes forth to settle matter as per conditions set by husband or agrees to settle for lesser amounts and agree to divorce.

Do women also misuse and abuse the legal system by making false claims? There have been classic cases where women have married and immediately filed repeated domestic violence cases with sole intention of extracting “alimony amount”. Even husband and family are sometimes scared and ashamed of such allegations and promptly pay off money to buy their peace of mind and give in to pressure tactics.

What about men who hide their income and refuse to pay the wife and children?

There is a likelihood that in future there may be mandatory guidelines to make it compulsory that all properties held by husband or wife may be considered as “marital property” and equally distributed among wife and children like it happens in several progressive countries. However this issue cannot resolve if the family in joint business in the affluent classes hide their real income and alienate the assets in jointly owned business. Supreme Court will have to consider this aspect because all businessmen communities in India operate in an entirely controlling fashion to deny supporting the “wife of their son”.

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Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman
Vaidehi Taman an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with three Honourary Doctorate in Journalism. Vaidehi has been an active journalist for the past 21 years, and is also the founding editor of an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, and The Democracy digital video news portal is her brain child. Vaidehi has three books in her name, "Sikhism vs Sickism", "Life Beyond Complications" and "Vedanti". She is an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, OSCP offensive securities, Certified Security Analyst and Licensed Penetration Tester that caters to her freelance jobs.
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