Alimony and Maintenance: What You Need to Know

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Alimony and maintenance often represent critical elements in family law litigation, particularly following the dissolution of a marriage. These financial provisions can have far-reaching implications, affecting both spouses for years to come. This article aims to address frequently asked questions about alimony and maintenance, thereby offering a practical guide for understanding these essential legal concepts.

What is Alimony and Maintenance?

Is there a difference between alimony and maintenance?

Although often used interchangeably, there’s a nuanced difference between alimony and maintenance. Alimony is a financial provision granted to a spouse following a divorce, aimed at sustaining their standard of living comparable to the one enjoyed during the marriage. Maintenance, on the other hand, is a broader term that can also encompass financial support during the subsistence of the marriage, under Sections 18–25 of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, for example.

Legal Framework Governing Alimony and Maintenance

Under which laws is alimony covered in India?

Alimony in India is not governed by a unified code and varies depending upon the religious affiliations and personal laws of the parties involved. For Hindus, including Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists, the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, 1956, apply. Muslims are governed by Muslim Personal Law, while Christians and Parsis have their laws. The Special Marriage Act, 1954, applies to inter-religion and civil marriages.

How does the law vary for different religions and communities?

In the case of Hindus, the court may order either spouse to pay alimony under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. In contrast, under Muslim law, there is a provision for Mehr and Maitenance under the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986. For Christians, Section 37 of the Indian Divorce Act, 1869, enables the court to order alimony


Who is Eligible for Alimony?

Can both spouses claim alimony?

In theory, yes. Under Section 24 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and Section 36 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954, both spouses can claim temporary alimony during the pendency of the case. The eligibility, however, is contingent on various factors, such as financial need, the standard of living, and the payer’s ability to pay.

Are children entitled to maintenance?

Absolutely. The welfare of minor children is one of the paramount considerations in any marital litigation. Provisions for child maintenance can be found under Section 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, and also under Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Factors Determining the Amount of Alimony

What do courts consider when deciding the alimony amount?

Courts take into account a multitude of factors when determining the amount of alimony or maintenance. These factors often include the duration of the marriage, the financial standing and earning capacities of both parties, age, health, and future earning prospects. Moreover, courts may also consider the conduct of the parties during the marriage.

Does the spouse’s earning capacity affect alimony?

Yes, the economic condition and earning capacity of the spouse claiming alimony are crucial determinants. The case of Dr. Kulbhushan Kumar v. Raj Kumari and Anr. [(1970) 3 SCC 129] elaborates on this, stipulating that the claimant’s own earnings or the income imputed to the unearned assets should be considered while deciding maintenance.

Types of Alimony

What is lump-sum alimony?

Lump-sum alimony refers to the one-time, bulk payment of financial support, as opposed to periodic payments. This mode is less common and usually occurs when the payer prefers to settle the alimony obligation in one go, and when the payee prefers financial independence post-divorce.

What is periodic or permanent alimony?

Periodic or permanent alimony is the regular, often monthly, payment of financial support from one spouse to the other. This type of alimony usually continues until the recipient spouse remarries or either of the parties passes away. The landmark case of Shobha Rani v. Madhukar Reddi [(1988) 1 SCC 105] discusses the court’s discretion in such matters


How to File for Alimony

What is the legal procedure for claiming alimony?

The process for claiming alimony generally commences with the filing of a petition, usually under the appropriate section of the governing act, such as Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, or Section 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Subsequently, both parties are given an opportunity to present evidence to support their respective claims and contentions, followed by arguments before a judgment is rendered.

What documents are required for filing?

While the list of documents may vary, generally, income proofs, property documents, bank statements, and any existing pre-nuptial agreements are necessary to substantiate the claims for alimony. Proper legal counsel is advisable for a thorough evaluation.

Can Alimony be Modified or Terminated?

Under what conditions can alimony be revised?

Modification of alimony is generally subject to material change in the circumstances of either of the parties. In Manish Jain v. Akanksha Jain [(2017) 15 SCC 801], the Supreme Court held that alimony can be revised if there’s a substantial change in the circumstances and if it’s just and equitable.

Can alimony be terminated if the receiving spouse remarries?

Yes, alimony generally terminates if the recipient spouse remarries, subject to the specifics of the governing personal laws and court orders. For instance, under Section 25 of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, the Court can rescind, modify or vary any such order if the recipient spouse remarries.

Tax Implications on Alimony

Is alimony taxable?

As per the Income Tax Act of 1961, alimony received is generally taxable in the hands of the recipient under “Income from Other Sources,” unless explicitly exempted by a special provision.

How does alimony affect your tax liability?

For the payer, alimony is not usually tax-deductible in India. It is advisable to consult with tax professionals to navigate the complex interplay between alimony and taxation.

One thought on “Alimony and Maintenance: What You Need to Know”

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