In India, family courts can pass an interim order on maintenance to a spouse when s/he is separated from the other spouse with minor marital conflict, with a decree of judicial separation or if one of the spouses has applied for divorce. So, a lawsuit for divorce or judicial separation is not mandatory to apply for monthly maintenance.
Interim maintenance order remains valid till the permanent maintenance order is given by the court during the divorce.
The maintenance amount is calculated (approximately) by taking into account the total monthly take home income (ie. without tax) of both the spouses. The educational background of the spouses, the number of years of marriage, number of children and child custody are also major factors, which govern the maintenance amount. Maintenance amount can also depend on who well the lawsuit has been fought by the advocates of both parties. The spouse with lesser income or no income can get a maintenance amount, which will make his/her complete earnings (plus maintenance) to be equal to 20% to 30% of the above total monthly income.
For example, if the husband has a take home income of one lac per month and the wife has a take home income of twenty thousand and they have no children in a marriage of 2 years, then the wife can theoretically get Rs.4000 as maintenance. How? The total take home income is one lac and twenty thousand and twenty percent of it comes to Rs.24,000. So, the woman gets Rs.4000 per month, so that her total income (her income+maintenance) becomes Rs.24,000.
If the couple have a child and the woman has the child custody, then she may get a maintenance amount of Rs.10,000 to Rs.16,000 per month so that her total income becomes Rs.30,000 to Rs.36,000 per month. Apart from that there can also be a judicial order defining the details on how the expenses for high studies of the child are shared. If the child decides to stay with the father after the age of 5, then the maintenance amount to the woman gets reduced accordingly.
If a womanís income is at least half of her husbandís income, then most often she may not get any maintenance.
Similarly in a marriage of six months, if the wife is not working, but she has a masters degree and the husband has a monthly take home income of rupees one lac, then she may get a maintenance amount between Rs.8,000 to Rs.12,000 per month. Why? Because the argument would be that she has the capability to work and support herself.
Sometimes, the wife is also ordered to pay maintenace to the husband when the husband has a very small or no income compared to his wifeís income. In recent past, such orders are passed by high courts in Cuttack and Lucknow much to the annoyance of some feminists and media. But, laws have to be the same irrespective of gender. Is not it?
So, economically empowered women do not get maintenance or they may even have to pay maintenace to their husbands in case of divorce.
The maintance amount can get higher if its a long marriage. The parents can also claim maintenace from their grown up earning children. Even though, it is not clear, if they can claim maintenance from their earning daughters as today daughters have equal property inheritance rights.
It must be noted that neither the husband nor the wife can make claims on the property(residential or otherwise) of the other during divorce. So, some intelligent men make sure to get residential property registered only in their name, when they apply it through a bank loan. But, most other foolish men (being is guided by the builders) register the property in joint names, while its the man who pays fully for the bank EMIs. In case of marital conflict and divorce, the condition of such men becomes extremely miserable as they are already under a debt of rupees 20 lacs to 30 lacs and the wives make a claim on it apart from the maintenace they may get in the court. I know, some other men asking their working wives to pay for half of the property and loan so that the property can be registered in both names. These wives sometimes start complaining that he is asking dowry as they feel its only a manís duty to provide for the family and the common expenses.
A woman or man stops getting maintenance from his/her spouse once s/he gets remarried unless they have a child. So, often women ask for a one time out of court settlement (or alimony) in stead of divorce. The man may agree to it or he can decline to it saying that he would prefer to give monthly maintenace.
For young guys (say techies within age group of 25 to 30) in marital conflicts, the maintenance amount given to their non working wives can be between Rs.2000. to Rs.7,000 (if they earn a salary between Rs.18,000 to Rs.50,000) provided they have no children.
So, often lawyers advise the women to file false dowry cases, so that the woman can force the guy to pay up a huge settlement/alimony (out of the court) in stead of going for a monthly maintenance. A monthly maintenance of Rs.3000 is in no way comparable to an one time alimony of Rs.10 lacs. But, the guy becomes bankrupt in such a situation as he ends up not only losing all his savings, but also takes loan from family and friends. He not only pays the alimony, but also ends up spending time in jail with his family, loses reputation, may be even the job, pays bribes to the police to stop harassing his family and the huge legal expense for bails and fighting the multiple cases. There is no way he can think of marrying again as he simply has no money to pay for even the marriage expenses. Of course, the painful experience can also keep him miles away from the very word marriage. On the otherhand, the womanís dowry case is fought by the public prosecutor(ie. the lawyer from the State paided by the taxpayerís money).
Its is alleged by some that the lawyers of both sides may also profit from this kind of a settlement. Its not at all surprising, if a husband finds himself cornered by his own lawyer, who keeps on pestering to go for a settlement, pay alimony, marry another girl (immediately) and live happily ever after.
The child is an important factor in a marital conflict, especially when the child is below the age of five. Fathers have natural right to child visitation. But, women can often evade the instructions/law and deny child visitation rights to the fathers. I have seen such fathers being allowed to meet their children once in a week or two just for an hour in the family court complex in Bangalore as in the police keeps dragging chained criminals into the vehicles in the background.