Divorced husband not liable for child's education cost if not consulted
Sheetal Bhatija Vs Deepak Bhatija
CIVIL APPLICATION NO.309 OF 2017 IN FAMILY COURT APPEAL NO.180 OF 2017
About/from the judgment:
The High Court recently observed that if a divorced 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.
A court was hearing a civil application by a woman, seeking the payment of Rs. 1.20 crore from her former husband towards education of their daughter in Australia.
However, the Court found that since the husband was not consulted about her education beforehand, he was not liable to bear the costs for the same. The Court noted,
"...concededy the decision to send the daughter for higher education abroad was taken out 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.”
The marriage between the applicant and her former husband was dissolved by the Family Court by mutual consent under the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955. However, the wife, being aggrieved by the dismissal of her claim for maintenance, lump sum alimony and litigation expenses filed an appeal before the High Court. The divorced husband had been paying maintenance of Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 20, 000 each for their two daughters, in line with a Family Court order.
Before the High Court, the wife submitted that her former husband has 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 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 High Court was told that the applicant had mortgaged her flat. It was argued that since the father is well-off, the Court may direct him to pay Rs. 1. 20 Crore as educational expenses.
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 runs a business, from which she makes sizable profits. It was also claimed that the woman is also receiving monthly rent of Rs. 1, 10, 000 from her flat. It was claimed that the two daughters also generate monthly income from lease rent of nearly 1.30 crore 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.
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.
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