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As per the Hindu Marriage Act, divorce maintenance is about the husband providing financial support for his wife’s living expenses. Generally, it’s not just the wife but the children and her parents are equally entitled to receiving financial aid from the father/husband/son-in-law.
There are some provisions that give the wife the right to claim maintenance from her husband. Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973(3) provides an effective remedy for neglected persons to seek maintenance, especially for a wife in India.
The law has laid down certain rules to follow in case of providing a specified amount of maintenance, which is applicable due to terms & conditions. It is also not necessary to seek a divorce, the wife can get maintenance without divorce.
Maintenance laws and rules differ from religion to religion. The amount of maintenance fixed by the court depends upon the monthly income of the husband, the income of the wife, his financial status, among other things. India being a democratic country provides its citizens with various laws which are essential in earning a livelihood. A woman is considered as a legal “Wife” of a man, only if their marriage hasn’t proved to be null and void. From the right to the residence at the house of her husband to have an equal share in the property, a legally wedded wife enjoys many rights.
As per the maintenance laws & rights, it is the duty of the husband to pay his wife a lump-sum or monthly payment, known as maintenance, where the maintenance without divorce or after a divorce has to be paid. The amount of maintenance is either decided by a mutual settlement between the husband and wife, or in accordance with the order received from the court. It is the women’s right after the divorce process in India.
The Constitution has provided many rights to the wife. Some of the key rights are:
As there are different personal laws that deal with marriage, divorce, and maintenance in different religions, there are distinct provisions regarding maintenance in law after divorce in India.
Maintenance under Hindu law: The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955(2) and the Hindu Adoption and Maintenance Act, 1956 grant the right to women to claim maintenance after divorce. Under Hindu laws, the quantum of maintenance amount is based on several factors like husband’s financial income, assets, liabilities, wife’s employment, earning status, etc. The maintenance will not include the Stridhan. Stridhan is the right of the wife, and maintenance is independent of that.
Maintenance under Muslim Personal Law: There are different kinds of divorce in Islam. The law that governs the maintenance of divorced women is the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986.
A wife has a claim over the following under the Act:
If the wife is unable to maintain her living after the iddat period, the Magistrate can order her relatives who would receive her property after her demise, to make suitable provisions to maintain her under the law of maintenance.
Maintenance under Christian law: Divorced Christian women can claim maintenance under the Indian Divorce Act, 1869. (4) The Act prescribes one-fifth of the husband’s income as the maximum maintenance amount. The amount of permanent maintenance depends upon factors like husband’s income, wife’s own income, property, the behavior of both the wife and husband, etc.
Maintenance under the Parsi law: The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act(5), 1936 provides the right of a wife to claim maintenance from her husband as one of the rights of wife after divorce in India. The maximum amount of maintenance for the period during which the case is pending is one-fifth of the husband's net income.
Marriages under the Special Marriage Act, 1954(6): As per the Special Marriage Act, 1954 a divorced wife can claim spousal support and maintenance from her husband on the basis of his financial ability, property, miscellaneous assets, wife’s current earning, etc. There is a provision of a wife’s right on the husband’s property in India.
Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 lays down the provision that states that when a man has sufficient means, he is liable to pay for the maintenance of his wife, children, and parents if they do not have any reasonable means to support themselves, or suffer from any physical or mental incapacity. There is no limit of minimum or maximum maintenance under section 125 mentioned, it depends on the economic condition and discretionary power of the court.
Under the various maintenance laws in India, it can be deferred that maintenance after divorce is granted to the wife only on the following grounds:
The amount of maintenance that a woman receives according to Indian law is not fixed and differs with each case. The amount is decided by the court, keeping in consideration all the relevant factors like the husband’s earnings, property, expenses, dependents’ needs, liabilities, wife’s earning & property ownership, and conduct of both parties. There is no specific formula or method of calculating the maintenance amount.
Generally, the amount of maintenance for a divorced wife is calculated as one-third of the husband’s salary, provided that the wife stays single and does not indulge in any romantic relationships. The court can order the husband to disclose his salary, IT returns, insurance, shares, fixed deposits, bank balance, lifestyle expenses, credit card ownership, vehicle ownership, etc. as proof of his ability to maintain himself.
A wife can claim maintenance for all her reasonable needs like food, home, medicine, and shelter. If the wife has children, she can claim for their education as well. The court having appropriate jurisdiction can decide the maintenance amount if deems fit and reasonable. This amount can be in the form of a monthly amount or a lump sum amount and can be modified later on the behest of the wife if there is a change in situations i.e. there is a change in income of the husband, inflation, marital status of wife, etc.
Maintenance rights of a divorced woman cease when she remarries or is romantically involved with someone else. The husband can raise the matter before the court to modify or rescind the order of maintenance.
When the wife has a job and earns enough for maintaining a standard life, she is not entitled to divorce maintenance. The definition of standard life differs from place to place and from situation to situation.
In case of non-payment of maintenance money without any sufficient cause, the wife can approach the court and file a criminal case against him. The court can secure the award by putting a charge on his property.
Maintenance rights of a wife are one of the most powerful legal tools in the hand of neglected wives, women who are divorced or women living separately from their husbands. It enables them to sustain their life with pride and respect. It is suggested to consult a divorce lawyer to claim maintenance either in a lump sum or as monthly payments.
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 Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973 - A detailed view of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), 1973
 Indian Divorce Act, 1869 - A site view to the Indian Divorce Act, 1869
 The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 - A deep view of The Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936
 Special Marriage Act, 1954 - A PDF of the Special Marriage Act, 1954