How does the Family Court determine child maintenance?
How does the Family Court address the issue of child maintenance?
Are there specific guidelines and rules governing the determination of maintenance?
This blog aims to answer these questions and explore the parameters that the court considers when deciding on the financial support for minors or spouses.
How is child maintenance determined in family court?
Maintenance, as defined in Section 369 of Muhammadan Law by D.F. Mullah, encompasses the provision of food, clothing, and shelter for a child. However, this definition is not exhaustive and, in our perspective, should be interpreted more broadly to address the contemporary requirements of a minor’s social, physical, mental growth, upbringing, and overall well-being.
This extended interpretation should consider the family’s status, societal norms, and the educational needs of the child, which have gained paramount significance. It is crucial to assess the father’s capacity to pay while determining maintenance.
While maintenance goes beyond mere provisions of food, clothing, and shelter, it does not unconditionally encompass education at higher levels indefinitely. The key consideration is to determine the level of education necessary for the child, taking into account the family’s status and circumstances, enabling them to secure a livelihood through honest and decent means. It is insufficient to assume, for example, that a tradesman’s child can sustain themselves through casual work or dishonest activities. The child must be supported until they can independently earn a living in a manner consistent with their family’s standing.
According to Section 370 of the Muhammadan Law by D.F. Mullah:
1. A father is obligated to maintain his sons until they reach puberty and his daughters until they are married. However, he is not obliged to maintain adult sons unless they are incapacitated by infirmity or disease. The custody of the children by their mother during infancy does not exempt the father from the obligation to maintain them. The father is not obliged to maintain a child capable of self-maintenance through their own property.
2. If the father is indigent and unable to earn, the mother, if financially capable, is obliged to maintain the children as the father would be.
3. If both the father and mother are impoverished, the responsibility for maintaining the children falls on the grandfather if he is financially capable.
When determining the amount of maintenance, the court considers the educational needs, status, and general expenses of the minors, as outlined in PLD 2013 SC 557.
The court also assesses the likelihood of obtaining education and the ability to provide a stable, safe, and healthy environment for the minors. Without due consideration of these factors, the court cannot conclusively determine the amount of maintenance.
There is no rigid formula for determining maintenance, with the primary consideration being the father’s capacity to support the minors. The court takes into account various factors, including the actual needs of the minors, their living conditions, the manner in which the mother is providing for them, any special requirements, and the financial status of the father.
In determining the amount of maintenance, the court must take into consideration a range of factors, including:
1. The income and assets of the applicant.
2. The reasonable needs of the applicant, including those of the minor.
3. The income and assets of the respondent.
4. The standard of living maintained by both the respondent and the applicant.
5. The age of both the applicant and the respondent.
6. The physical and mental well-being of both the applicant and the respondent.
7. The necessary expenses for the education of the minor.
8. The financial obligations of the respondent, encompassing responsibilities towards other family members.
9. Any other pertinent factor deemed relevant to the case.
The court places particular emphasis on the father’s responsibility to meet the special needs of the minor, whether they be medical, physical, or related to specific educational requirements.
In sum, the court carefully considers all relevant circumstances and factors of the case to arrive at a fair determination of the amount of maintenance that the father is obligated to contribute towards the well-being of the minor.
GULL HASSAN KHAN ADVOCATE HIGH COURT
CEO, PAKLAWYER.COM PVT LTD