A father's obligation would not end on his son turning 18 years as the entire burden of his education and other expenses cannot fall only on the mother, the Delhi High Court has said while granting Rs 15,000 interim maintenance to a divorced woman for her adult son till he completes graduation or starts earning.
The high court said it cannot shut its eyes to the rising cost of living and it is unreasonable to expect that the mother alone would bear the entire burden for herself and for the son with the small amount of maintenance given by her estranged husband for the maintenance of their daughter.
While dealing with the woman's plea challenging a 2018 trial court order declining maintenance to her and granting it only to her two children who are living with her, the high court said the entire expenditure of the son, on his turning major, is now being borne by the mother.
"The petitioner no.1 (woman) has to take care of the entire expenditure of the petitioner no.2 (son) who has now attained majority but is not earning because he is still studying. The Family Court, therefore, failed to appreciate the fact that since no contribution is being made by the respondent (man) herein towards the petitioner no.2, the salary earned by the petitioner no.1 would not be sufficient for the petitioner no.1 to maintain herself," Justice Subramonium Prasad said.
The estranged couple had got married in November 1997 and had two children. They got divorced in November 2011 and the son and daughter are 20 and 18 years old.
As per the Family Court's order, the son was entitled to maintenance till he attained the age of majority and daughter would be entitled for the maintenance till she gets employment or gets married, whichever is earlier.
The high court, in its order said, "The two children are living with the mother. Since the purpose of granting interim maintenance is to ensure that the wife and the children are not put to starvation, the courts while fixing interim maintenance are not expected to dwell into minute and excruciating details and facts which have to be proved by the parties."
It said the court cannot shut its eyes to the fact that at the age of 18 the education of the son is not yet over and he cannot sustain himself as he would have barely passed his 12th standard on completing 18 years of age and therefore, the mother has to look after him and bear his entire expenses.
"It cannot be said that the obligation of a father would come to an end when his son reaches 18 years of age and the entire burden of his education and other expenses would fall only on the mother. The amount earned by the mother has to be spent on her and on her children without any contribution by the father because the son has attained majority."
"The court cannot shut its eyes to the rising cost of living. It is not reasonable to expect that the mother alone would bear the entire burden for herself and for the son with the small amount of maintenance given by the respondent herein towards the maintenance of his daughter," the high court said.
It said the amount earned by the woman will not be sufficient for the family of three, that is, the mother and two children to sustain themselves and the amount spent on the son will not be available for the mother.
"This court is therefore inclined to grant a sum of Rs 15,000 per month as interim maintenance to the woman from the date of son attaining the age of majority till he completes his graduation or starts earning whichever is earlier," it said while directing the family court to expeditiously decide the main maintenance petition which was filed in 2008.
The high court noted that the woman was working as an Upper Division Clerk in Delhi Municipal Corporation, earning about Rs 60,000 per month and the records indicate that the man has filed his salary certificate which showed that his gross monthly income, as on November, 2020, was Rs 1.67 lakh.
It said this court cannot shut its eyes to the fact that the man, who got re-married and has a child from the second marriage, has to maintain that child also and the reduction of the amount for maintenance by the family court cannot be found fault with.
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