Father can’t avoid maintaining children just because mother is earning: High Court

A man cannot avoid the responsibility of maintaining his children on the ground that his estranged wife is earning because a lot of time and effort also go into the upbringing, the Delhi High Court said Monday while upholding the interim maintenance awarded to a woman.

Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said it would be incorrect to hold both parents equally responsible for the expenses of a child.

“One cannot put value to the time and effort put in by the mother in upbringing of the child. No doubt mother, if she is earning, should also contribute towards the expenses of the child but the expenses cannot be divided equally between the two,” the high court said.

The observation came on a man’s plea challenging orders of a trial court and appellate court awarding Rs 60,000 per month as interim maintenance to his wife to take care of their three minor daughters, one of whom was born to him from an earlier marriage.

The husband, in his appeal against the lower court’s decisions, had contended that he was a pauper and that his wife was running a business and therefore, he should not be saddled with the liability of maintaining either her or the minor daughters.

Rejecting his contention, the high court said, “Merely because respondent-wife is earning, does not give an excuse to the husband to avoid working or undertake the responsibility of maintaining his children.”

The high court also observed that the lower courts had found that there was substantial inflow and outflow of money from his accounts, even though he claimed to be a pauper, and there was also evidence that he was running a travel agency whose accounts revealed transactions running into several lakhs.

“Keeping in view of the dependency factor and the fact that the only dependent member of the petitioner (husband) are his three minor daughters, who are presently in the custody of the respondent (wife), who is taking care of them, the award of interim maintenance of Rs 60,000 per month, to my mind, is not unjustified,” Justice Sachdeva said in his judgement dismissing the man’s appeal.

The high court said there was no infirmity in the lower courts’ orders and directed the man to clear the entire arrears of maintenance within six weeks.

The man, a Muslim, and the woman, a Christian, got married on November 28, 2004 under the Special Marriage Act. They separated in March 2015.

Subsequently, she had filed a case under the Domestic Violence Act against her husband in which the interim maintenance was awarded by the trial court in September 2017 and upheld by an appellate court in August 2018.

He had moved the high court against the two orders.

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