Answered by Shaykh Muhammed Bholat
Can I give Zakah (mandatory charity) to my wife and children or is it prohibited in Islam?
The answer to your query regarding Zakat "for one's wife and children" is as follows:
If a husband cannot support his wife, whether it may be due to unforeseen circumstances or not, and the wife doesn’t possess her own money, which is equal to the Nisab (in the form of jewelry, or any other property etc.), then she will qualify as a Faqeer (poor person). Faqeer is the second category in the list of the eligible mentioned in the Holy Quran.
"The Sadaqāt (prescribed alms) are (meant) only to be given to the poor, the needy, to those employed to collect them, to those whose hearts are to be won, in the cause of the slaves and those encumbered with debt, in the way of Allah and to a wayfarer. This is an obligation prescribed by Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, Wise." (Holy Quran 9:60)
With regards to the children, if they are Na-Baligh (they haven't yet reached the age of puberty), they will be dependent on their father i.e., If the father is poor then they will be eligible for Zakat. In order for children to be given Zakat directly, they must be at the age of understanding. On the other hand, if the children haven't yet reached the age of understanding, and the father is poor, he may accept the Zakat and spend it on his children.
Allah Ta'ala Knows Best