Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a payment made by one spouse to the other after divorce or separation. In India, the laws regarding alimony are complex and vary depending on religion and other factors. While alimony aims to provide financial support to the economically weaker spouse, it can put a major strain on the paying spouse’s finances. As divorce rates rise in India, more and more men are looking for ways to avoid paying alimony to their former wives. Here will examine the laws around alimony in India and outline some of the legal strategies a husband can use to avoid or reduce alimony payments.
Laws Governing Alimony in India
The payment of alimony in India is governed by the following laws:
Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
This provides for monthly maintenance to be paid to the wife by the husband during marriage and even after divorce. The maintenance amount is decided based on the husband’s income and living standards. Under this law, the husband has to pay maintenance if the wife is unable to maintain herself.
Section 18 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956
This law applies to Hindus and deals with alimony during judicial separation or divorce. It provides for maintenance to be paid based on the income and property of the husband. The factors considered include the wife’s financial needs, standard of living, and conduct.
Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
This section deals with permanent alimony and maintenance by the husband to the wife during divorce or separation. The amount is decided based on the husband’s income, wife’s expenses, and other relevant factors.
Section 37 of Special Marriage Act, 1954
This law governs alimony for couples who have had an inter-religious or civil marriage. The maintenance amount is based on the husband’s net income, wife’s income and conduct, and other circumstances of the case.
Section 23 of the Hindu adoptions and maintenance act
This section allows a Hindu wife to claim maintenance from her husband if he has ceased to perform his marital duties or has another wife living. The amount is decided based on the husband’s means.
Strategies for Avoiding Alimony
While the laws clearly provide for spousal maintenance to be paid by the husband, there are some strategies a husband can legally adopt to avoid or reduce alimony payments.
1. Negotiate a Lump Sum Settlement
Instead of monthly payments, the husband can negotiate to pay the wife a mutually agreed, fixed lump sum amount as full and final settlement of all alimony claims. This allows the husband to close out the financial claims.
2. Challenge the Wife’s Need for Support
If the wife has income and assets of her own, the husband can contest her claim of being unable to support herself. Her educational qualifications, employment status, and earnings capacity will be considered by the court.
3. Highlight the Short Duration of Marriage
For short marriages of less than 5 years, courts are less likely to award substantial alimony. The husband can emphasize the brief period of matrimony to avoid paying maintenance.
4. Provide Evidence of Wife’s Adultery
5. Challenge the Wife’s Cruelty
If the husband can prove mental or physical cruelty by the wife through medical records, police complaints etc, the court may relieve him of paying maintenance. Cruelty is a ground for divorce under Hindu law.
6. File for Divorce Sooner
Longer the marriage, higher the alimony amount. To limit maintenance costs, the husband should file for divorce at the earliest sign of an irretrievable breakdown of marriage. Delaying divorce only increases alimony.
7. Emphasize the Wife’s Employability
If the wife is educated, professionally qualified or capable of earning, the husband can convince the court she does not need support. Her income potential will be assessed before awarding maintenance.
8. Highlight Your Limited Means
If the husband draws a modest income, he can request the court to grant a small, affordable maintenance amount based on his limited financial capacity. His income tax returns will be examined.
9. Collect Evidence of Wife’s Assets
Using a detective or forensic accountant, the husband can gather proof of any hidden assets owned by the wife. This evidence can counter her claims of being unable to support herself financially.
10. Remarriage of Wife
If the divorced wife remarries or is in a live-in relationship, the husband can file to terminate alimony payment as she will be supported by her new partner.
11. Seek Shared Custody of Children
If the husband gets shared custody of children after divorce, he can request lower alimony as his child care expenses will be higher. Custody plays a role in deciding maintenance.
12. Change Jobs or Get Voluntary Retirement
The husband can try to reduce his income on paper by switching to a lower-paying job or taking VRS. This will bring down his maintenance liability calculated as a percentage of monthly income.
13. Hide Income and Assets
While unlawful, some husbands transfer or hide their assets to artificially lower their net worth. Offshore bank accounts and benami properties make it difficult for courts to determine actual income. But if discovered, this can invite penalties and contempt.
14. Emigrate and Divorce Abroad
In foreign jurisdictions like Dubai and Singapore, courts can pass ex-parte divorce decrees without ordering spousal support. However, if the husband has assets in India, the wife can still file for maintenance here.
15. Make Voluntary Settlement with Wife
The husband can negotiate terms of a one-time voluntary settlement to be paid to the wife in lieu of undergoing prolonged divorce proceedings. This avoids alimony ordered by court.
There are a few legitimate ways for a husband to avoid or reduce alimony like contesting the claim or reaching a mutual settlement with the wife. Unlawful strategies like hiding income can backfire badly if detected. The husband should hire a skilled divorce lawyer to get the best outcome from divorce negotiations. With proper legal guidance, alimony payment can either be avoided or minimized considerably. However, it is best for couples to part amicably through a fair settlement keeping future expenses in mind.