The Supreme Court of India in its order dated February 14, 2023 remarked that earning parents have a shared responsibility to maintain the children and provide them with the best education.
However, this was a case where the High Court had reduced the maintenance payable by husband as ordered by the Family Court. Subsequently, the wife appealed in the apex court against the High Court order and got it reversed.
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Parties got married in 2001 at Tirumala, Tirupati. The couple has two sons – one is a college going student, whereas the other is studying at school.
Due to marital disputes, the husband filed a petition for grant of a decree of divorce. Subsequently, the wife filed a petition under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 seeking educational maintenance of Rs 90,000 for her sons, besides monthly maintenance of Rs 20,000 each for both the sons.
Family Court, L.B. Nagar, Ranga Reddy District
In October 2018, the Family Court granted a sum of Rs 10,000 per month each to the minor children of the parties towards their interim maintenance from the date of petition. The husband was unhappy with this order and challenged the same in the High Court.
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Andhra Pradesh High Court
In February 2019, the Andhra Pradesh High Court reduced the interim maintenance from Rs 10,000 p.m. each to Rs 3,000 p.m. each.
It is important to note the High Court held that both the parents are equally responsible for the maintenance and education of the children and since the appellant – wife is also earning, the burden of maintenance of the children cannot be fastened on the respondent – husband alone.
The wife subsequently challenged this order in the top court.
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Supreme Court of India
At the outset, the Supreme Court of India has agreed with Andhra Pradesh High Court’s view that,
…In a case where both the husband and wife are earning, they have a shared responsibility to maintain the children and provide them best education.
However, the apex court has been practical with regards to the quantum granted for the maintenance for a child. The Supreme Court said,
It has been noticed by the High Court that the older son is studying in Sri Chaitanya College, while the younger son is enrolled at Bhashyam School.
That being an admitted fact, it can be reasonably inferred that the expenses dedicated to the education and day-to- day maintenance of both the children are much more than Rs 10,000 p.m.
The appellant – wife is also, thus, contributing substantially for the maintenance and education of the children.
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The Supreme Court then added,
Merely because the appellant – wife has some source of livelihood does not absolve the respondent – husband from his responsibility to maintain and provide a good education for the children.
Reversing the Andhra Pradesh High Court, the Supreme Court said:
In the era of high prices and increased cost of living, a sum of Rs 10,000 p.m. is much less than what is required to meet the basic needs of a college/school going child.
The High Court, therefore, ought not to have reduced the interim compensation which clearly overlook the actual needs of the children. At the very least, the amount of maintenance should remain the same as directed in the interim order of the Family Court.
Setting aside the High Court order, the Supreme Court directed the respondent – husband to pay the arrears of interim maintenance to the appellant – wife within a period of two months and he shall continue to pay the interim maintenance till it is modified/revised/finally determined by the Family Court.
Voice For Men India Take:
- At the outset, VFMI has always maintained that interest of the children should be primary even if the couple are at loggerheads with each other
- This case is interesting from two perspectives: 1) Shared financial responsibility if both parents are working; 2) Neither spouse should take advantage of neglecting their children, if they have the means and resources
- One must appreciate that the wife who is working has not filed for maintenance in this case (which is subjective, and not yet a norm in the law)
- The wife is already shouldering financial responsibility of the children who are in her custody and the Supreme Court is right in accessing the maintenance amount reduced by High Court for all practical reasons
- If we look from the perspective of the husband, many men do not want to part with maintenance to children, if the wife does not permit access between the child and non-custodial parent (the same is not clear in the case above)
- VFMI supports true equality, shared parental rights & responsibilities in terms of access and monetary contribution to their upbringing should be the norm. This, we believe, will truly ensure that “Best Interests & welfare” of the child are protected
LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW:
READ ORDER | Earning Parents Have Shared Responsibility To Maintain Their Children: Supreme Court— Voice For Men India (@voiceformenind) May 25, 2023
▪️Wife is working & did not seek maintenance for herself
▪️Husband was unhappy with Family Court order & got it reduced from HC
▪️SC upholds FC orderhttps://t.co/vsL9BL14lU
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