Friday, July 22, 2011

Wife’s lifestyle, status count in fixing alimony, says SC

New Delhi: In divorce cases, the courts must factor in the wife's status and lifestyle while fixing alimony to ensure that she lives in reasonable comfort but should not grant an amount that would be repressive for the husband, the Supreme Court has ruled.
“The amount of maintenance fixed for the wife should be such as she can live in reasonable comfort considering her status and mode of life she was used to live when she lived with her husband,” said a bench of Justices P Sathasivam and B S Chauhan.
But, it struck a balance too. “The amount so fixed cannot be excessive or affect the living condition of the other party,” it said while asking an Air India Commander to choose between paying a permanent one time alimony of Rs 40 lakhs or Rs 40,000 a month for the entire life of his ex-airhostess wife.
The Bombay HC had granted divorce by mutual consent on the terms that he either paid Rs 20 lakh or Rs 20,000 a month. Her counsel senior advocate Nidesh Gupta argued that it was too less compared to the earnings of her estranged husband and the prospects of future promotion.
Though senior advocate Indu Malhotra argued that the former Cathay Pacific airhostess had highly exaggerated her ex-husband's income, the bench said it could not be denied that the wife left her job after the marriage at the instance of her husband.
It took note of the facts - husband was a senior commander, properties in his name, he being 42 years of age, future employment prospects, he had re-married having a child, had to look after his parents.
“We feel that the ends of justice would be met by fixing maintenance at the rate of Rs 40,000 per month instead of Rs 20,000 per month or fix permanent alimony/maintenance at Rs 40 lakh to be paid by the respondent within a period of six months from August 1, which will forfeit all her claims,” it said.

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