The coronavirus pandemic period has been typically characterised by job losses and pay cuts across sectors. Although most households are barely managing to make do with whatever is coming in, it has been learnt that divorcees are worse off at present.
According to an Indian Express report, family court lawyers have been receiving calls from several clients seeking the court’s intervention to reduce the maintenance amount paid to separated wives and children or have it waived off.
A major chunk of the divorce cases filed in family courts are contested over alimony payment. There is a reportedly a tendency among divorcees to skirt the payment of maintenance to the wife, but the family court lawyers say this time it is different. Loss of income has become a reality for way too many people.
The report mentions how an actor, who used to pay a monthly alimony of Rs 70,000 to his ex-wife and son, is now out of work due to the lockdown. He is not being able to meet his own expenses and is unable to pay even half the maintenance amount.
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Family court lawyer Vandana Shah explained her client’s ordeal and said: “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. First, he called me and said he can pay Rs 30,000 in maintenance and now he says he can’t even afford that because he has had no income due to the lockdown.”
Lawyer Mridula Kadam informs that in cases such as these (loss of job, etc), clients must file interim applications citing 'changed circumstances'. She pointed out that it is easier for a salaried man to prove he has had a salary cut by producing his salary certificate, but it is difficult for businessmen to do the same.
Meanwhile, women’s rights lawyer Veena Gowda said men could be using the pandemic as an excuse to evade alimony payment. This will affect poor women most. In such instances, the courts must step in and make sure some immediate relief is provided to women.
During the coronavirus lockdown period, even the Bombay High Court had reportedly granted relief to a man who lost his job and could not pay interim maintenance.Follow our coverage of the coronavirus crisis here