The Bombay High Court recently observed that if a husband is not consulted by ex-wife on decisions concerning the education of their child, he is not liable to bear the entire cost for the educational expenses.
- The marriage between the applicant wife and her former husband was dissolved by the Family Court in Mumbai by mutual consent under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955
- However, the wife, asserted her claim for maintenance, lump sum alimony and litigation expenses by filing an appeal before the Bombay High Court
- The divorced husband had been paying maintenance of Rs. 30,000 (wife) and Rs. 20, 000 each for their two daughters, in line with a Family Court order (Total : Rs 70,000 per month)
- However, the wife submitted before the High Court, that her former husband had multiple income sources and that he was engaged in the money lending and finance business
- It was also claimed that he had financed popular Hindi feature films
- In light of this, the divorced wife sought for further enhanced maintenance, including for the eduction of one of her daughters, who had been admitted for a five-year course in Australia in 2014
- To bear the educational expenses for the same, the wife told the High Court that the applicant had mortgaged her flat
- It was argued that since the father of her daughters was a well-off man, the Court may direct him to pay a sum of Rs. 1. 20 Crore as educational expenses
- The wife has asked for her monthly maintenance to be enhanced from Rs 30,000 to Rs 55,000 for herself and from Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 for both daughters (which means Rs 1,10,000 from Rs 70,000 which she is currently getting after divorce)
- The wife has also claimed for reinstatement of her associate membership in Khar Gymkhana, filed the present family court appeal
- However, the respondent-husband denied the claims of having multiple income sources
- It was argued by him that the divorced wife has her own source of income and also ran a business, from which she made good profits (Approximately earns Rs 70,000 as salary per month)
- It was also claimed that the woman is also receiving monthly rent of Rs. 1, 10, 000 from her flat in addition to the Rs 70,000 paid by the respondent each month
- It was claimed that the two daughters also generate monthly income from lease rent of nearly Rs 1,30,000 from flat owned by them.
- Opposing the applicant’s plea, the divorced husband further argued that he had suffered from heart ailments and that he was no longer in any active businesses
- Barring two properties including his residence, he has no other immovable asset, the counsel for the husband argued
- Ultimately, it was stated that the decision to send the daughter for higher education was taken without consulting him
- It was argued further that the respondent was not in a position to bear the expenditure for the same
A Division Bench of Justices Akil Kureshi and S J Kathawalla was hearing the civil application by a woman and the Court found that since the husband was not consulted about the education of his children beforehand, he was not liable to bear the costs for the same. The Court noted,
Concededly the decision to send the daughter for higher education abroad was taken without consultation of the husband, whatever the reason for non-consultation may be.
In view of the same, the Bench proceeded to opine,
When a ward is being sent for education abroad at a relatively young age, which entails considerable expenditure, the concurrence of both parents, particularly one who is expected to bear the expenditure thereof, would be necessary. The husband certainly would have a right to inquire about the university where the child is likely to be admitted, the course being pursued, the aptitude of the child in the particular branch of education etc., which would be relevant factors. The applicant cannot take a unilateral decision of such magnitude and simply send the bill for the expenditure to the father.
Other Observations Of The Court
- The Court, in turn, observed that both sides were trying to project a rather bleak financial picture of their own resources as against the rosy picture of the opponent
- After perusing the material on record, the Court refused to grant the applicant’s the prayer for maintenance, given that she as unable to produce clear evidence of the current financial capacity of the husband
All the same, the Court found it appropriate that the divorced husband be directed to bear a part of his daughter’s expenses, observing that,
Not too far back, the husband was engaged in multiple businesses, such as film financing and private financing. Surely, such investments would not be wiped out overnight. Thus, we refuse to believe the entire version of the husband about his financial resources. At the same time, we do not find it appropriate to direct him to bear the entire educational expenses.
Looking to the resources of the husband and also looking to the fact that the daughter is performing well in her higher education at Australia and the fact that the mother has already undertaken and will continue to undertake expenditure for such education, we direct the respondent-husband to pay a sum of Rs.25 Lakhs towards the said cause.
The Court disposed of the plea with a direction that the divorced husband pays Rs 25 lakhs towards his daughter’s education in Australia within four weeks.
Our Take In General:
- Time and again we have seen several cases where wives have exploited women-centric laws to their full advantage
- In the present case, an ex-wife expected the father to foot the bill of his daughter’s education, while he was not even informed or consulted about where she was studying
- In most cases, divorced or separated fathers are completely deprived of any time or access to children, whereas on the other hand women approach court and try to prove how irresponsible the fathers have been, because they failed to maintain relationships or pay up for the child
- The court in this case has passed an order well articulating that Fathers are equally important in the development of a child and should not be used as mere tools of extortion using the pretext of the child
- Education of children is prime and of utmost important amidst the quarrelling couples, however, if access or information about children’s well being is not parted with the father, he cannot be merely used to keep compensating because he happens to be a biological father on paper
- Shared Parenting is a must from the beginning and not only when all legal options of getting maintenance in the name of the child are stopped
- Denying maintenance to the divorced wife is also a welcome decision, however, the reason should not have been “she was unable to produce her husband’s income”; instead the reason should have been that “the assessment of the wife’s income was sufficient to sustain a respectable life”
- If you analyse a husband’s income, there is no end to the sky rocketing demands, as women will never feel that they have got enough
- The undeserving one’s should not be encouraged to legally extort men forever
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