What alimony, honey? I just quit my job

A growing number of men are quitting their jobs or being 'disowned' by the family business to avoid paying alimony to their wives.

When the honey's gone, it's just about the money, isn't it? Ask couples seeking divorce, and the legal wrangles they end up in while claiming or evading maintenance could put any movie to shame.

Now, to avoid their spouse from having any monetary advantage over them, men are even quitting their high paying jobs.

Quitting jobs during a divorce plea has become routine, going by Justice Roshan Dalvi's observation in a recent case where the husband quit a `3crore-per-annum (plus bonuses) job with Cairn India, just so he could avoid paying a substantial sum as maintenance to his wife and three children. Within a week of filing for divorce, the husband had resigned from his high paying job, transferred `5.5 crore to a separate account, moved to Chicago, where he now lives, and claimed to be jobless.

"Why did your client shift to Chicago? He should have gone to Sholapur instead. He proudly claims to have been dismissed. Judicial notice is required to be taken of the fact that in cases where husbands refuse and neglect maintaining the wife and children, they show themselves to have been dismissed," said Justice Dalvi.

However, this ploy isn't new, says Shobha, a lawyer at Delhi High Court, who goes on to cite cases as far back as 1983, where men quit their jobs - high paying or otherwise - just to reduce the amount they would have to pay as alimony. But the trend's picked up in recent years, she adds.

"Not just that, men often end up seeking maintenance or alimony from their wives, by proving that they're jobless. In 2011, I was the legal counsel in a case where the man not just presented a case in court of being insolvent and that his business had gone bust, but also ended up having the wife, an entrepreneur, pay him `20,000 per month as his maintenance, a car and some other assets," says Shobha.

When Meerut-based Trisha Pradhan*, then 37, and her husband filed for divorce 11 years after a rocky marriage, she least expected her husband to evade payment of alimony and maintenance for their son by quitting his job with an IT major in Noida. But that's exactly the ploy he used.

"We were filing for divorce on grounds of mutual consent, so this was a little out of the blue. He actually turned around and asked me to support him after divorce since I was working. Thankfully, the court wasn't taken in by his case, and ordered him to pay for the alimony, as well as our son's maintenance, by selling his ancestral property. I did forgo the fight for the alimony, though, because the divorce proceedings were getting so ugly," relates Trisha.

While salaried men quit jobs, those involved in family businesses resort to far more astute measures to avoid their monetary obligations, says Saif Mahmood, another advocate with the Delhi High Court.

"The effort is to reduce by any way possible the maintenance that the man would have to pay to his ex-wife and children, if any. Business families try to prove that the establishment belongs to the father, and that the son seeking divorce receives a paltry amount as salary.

Some families even go to the extent of putting a notice in the papers disinheriting their son before the divorce proceedings begin, just so they can show in court that the man is not in a position to pay alimony," says Saif Mahmood.

Karan Mehrotra*, 24, did something similar before seeking divorce from his estranged wife. They'd been married for barely four months before they realised this relationship wasn't going to work. But before going to court, the Mehrotras, acting on the advice of their legal counsel, ensured that Karan had nothing to do with the flourishing family business, at least on paper. He was debarred from family property through a legal notice in the papers.

"I was also advised to stay away from home. I took a room on rent during that period," says Karan, who started a business in his mother's name later. "My wife had made me go through hell for the time that we were married, and there was no way we would pay her a penny in maintenance," he adds.

But to make villains out of all men would be painting the picture in one colour. "The reason why such tactics are resorted to is because the amount of maintenance being sought by women and granted by courts is so high these days," adds Saif. Advocate Pradeep Norula couldn't agree more.

"It's true that men use these ploys to conceal their income, or quit their jobs to avoid paying high maintenance/alimony. But courts are able to see through the ruse if a man has quit the job under what I would term as 'suspicious circumstances'.

However, it's also true that women often claim higher alimony than men can afford," he says.
*Names changed on request

-The times of india