Divorcees demand reduced alimony due to pandemic-induced layoffs and salary cuts: Report

Women's rights lawyer said this might harm economically disadvantaged women
Last Updated 31 July 2020, 10:33 IST

While lay-offs and salary cuts have increased manifold due to the coronavirus pandemic, its ripples are being felt even more acutely by divorcees.

Lawyers have received numerous calls from clients seeking the intervention of law for reduction or waiver of alimony paid to separated wives and children, the Indian Express reported.

Although the tendency to evade paying alimony is not uncommon, pandemic-enforced circumstances have left courts in a fix to to factor in these conditions while deciding cases of alimony.

An actor, who paid an alimony of Rs 70,000 per month to his ex-wife and son, has been without a job since the nation-wide lockdown. He had initially told his lawyer that he will be able to pay Rs 30,000 but later he said he could not even afford that.

“The wife is a journalist and has a fixed takeaway, even if there may be salary cuts, but in his case, his income was reduced to zero,” family court lawyer Vandana Shah told the publication. Her client asked her why he should continue paying the maintenance for daily needs when he paid for his son’s school fee, extracurricular activities and travel abroad.

Mridula Kadam, a lawyer, said family court lawyers have already drafted interim applications for cases of reduction or waiver of alimony. The application would cite “changed circumstances” as the reason and urge the court to review its earlier decision on the order of maintenance.

“I got a call from a banker who said he could no longer pay the same maintenance amount that he was paying because he has had to take a pay cut. It is easier for a salaried person to show the reduction in his income with a salary certificate but for businessmen it’s more difficult. Like in case of a restaurateur, he will have to show that the restaurant was closed for so many months and he had no income,” Kadam told Indian Express.

Lawyer Amit Karkhanis said that this was an “obvious consequence” of pay cuts and the rising unemployment. After the courts reopen fully several applications will be open to modifications for the alimony amounts. A cut in maintenance will be decided which will be proportional to the husband’s income, Karkhanis observed.

Women’s rights lawyer Veena Gowda said that a cut in alimony will make things difficult for economically disadvantaged women. The pandemic might be used as an excuse for men who tried to evade paying alimony.

Gowda told the news outlet, “We really tend to ignore patriarchy when we look at this concept of ‘family’. When we see the pendency of cases in the family court, a lot of them are pendency of recovery of (maintenance) arrears. Even in middle-class, upper-middle class families, it is becoming an excuse to not pay and harass the woman. They know there is not much the courts are going to do now because their matters won’t come up as urgent.”

(Published 31 July 2020, 10:33 IST)

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