Not being able to see their beloved children after a bitter divorce is the most difficult thing for non-custodial parents. According to a report of Times of India presented in 2012, parents who do not have the custody of their children travel long distances just to meet them, and in return, they are gifted with loneliness and ignorance.
A man from Boisar, Mumbai used to travel more than 110 kilometers to Bandra, in the hope to see his 10-year- old daughter, whose custody he had lost to his wife while in a vicious divorce case. He had not seen his daughter for the last few years.
A piece of information, with regards to child custody matters, had been revealed by a parent under the Right to Information Act, that stated that there were over 176 non-custodial parents (NCP) in the city who were allowed to see their children only in the Children Complex room situated on the third floor of the Bandra family court. A man who was hustling to see his five-year-old son, who he had not seen in two years, had enquired about the above information. Along with that, he was also fighting a case of restitution of conjugal rights and wanted his wife to return. He then quoted,
My wife works and stays in Vasai. I want to meet my son and don’t want him to be deprived of the love he deserves. I have no say in his matters. The NCP gets limited access – we can’t take our children for outings or to our place. An NCP can meet the child only in that room and only for two hours, every alternate Saturday. That’s 48 hours in a year.
The man hadn’t seen his son in two years.
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Another victim of spiteful divorces that have been resulting in children and father drifting apart, was a man who had been testing his patience each time he went to meet his child. It had been nothing short of a nightmare, as he would endlessly wait to meet his child, but his wife would not bring the daughter to meet him. The vulnerable NCP the said,
Every alternate Saturday, I wait here for two hours, hoping that my wife will bring my daughter. I have a court order to see her, but my wife chooses to ignore it. I haven’t seen my daughter for two years. I feel helpless.
According to the statistics revealed by an RTI filed at the Thane Family Court, was even more upsetting. According to the RTI response, out of the 83 child custody matters:
- Child custody was awarded to father only in two cases
- 50 percent overnight vacation was given to only one parent
Many NCPs had revealed that their children had not visited them in four-five years. Not only that, but their grandparents were also waiting to see their grandchildren. Barely any measures were or have been taken against the neglecting parent restricting access albeit court orders. It is a known fact that the parents who have custody always tend to find excuses to not be present at the time of the access. They also poison their
child’s mind against the NCP.
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The Supreme court takes into consideration that the court follows parens patriae jurisdiction; wherein the problem has to be solved with a human touch in which the paramount consideration is the welfare of the minor child. If the child is old enough to form an intelligent preference, it must be considered, though the final decision rests with the court.
The father of a four-year-old daughter, who was accused of cruelty under section 498A of the IPC then said,
By such access, you get to see your child for 48 hours in a year and this often goes on for years. Because of such limited opportunity, the child and the NCP hardly get to bond.
The 38-year-old financial executive said he had the means to provide for his child. He quoted,
I am surprised when she tells me, ‘Papa, I know you left mummy with no money.’
No court has held me guilty. Often children are brainwashed against the NCP. Why are there no guidelines for the custodial parent?
Adding further he said,
We cannot attend the parents-teachers meetings. If we go to school, just to see our child, we are accused of attempting to kidnap him/her. The concept of shared parenting is not encouraged. The custodial parent does not bring the child to meet the NCP, citing excuses. For each access, one has to file an application. Hardly any lawyers encourage a couple to reconcile.
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A NCP, who was married for six years, was served a divorce notice by his wife in 2007. She obtained an injunction order restraining him from coming to her place to meet his son. The two had been entangled in a custody battle. However, not even a single hearing had happened till 2012.
Lawyer Nityoah Suneel Mehta cited that in many cases due to the alleged criminal complaints, the father loses his job and that works as adding fuel to fire as it becomes ammunition to deny him access to the child.
The right to be with your own child and see them cannot be taken away from any parent. Unless the courts have a reason to believe that meeting the NCP is harming to the child or is a bad influence, why should there be an issue?
In yet another case, a couple parted their separate ways in 2010 by mutual consent. The man had the right to
meet his child twice a month and half of the vacations. His former wife remarried and moved on. However, the woman unilaterally changed her contact numbers. The helpless father had no way to reach her requesting to see his child.
Supreme Court Pointers On Child Custody
The Supreme Court has always suggested a few pointers that showcase the rights of the NCPs. The same can be noted as below:
- When the mother is granted custody, the child should be granted sufficient exposure to the natural father
- The father should be permitted to have custody of the child during festivals and school vacations
- The mother should not prevent the father from coming to see the child during weekends, and not prevent the child from receiving any gifts that may be given by the father
- NCP must be given the right to approach the court when visitation rights are affected
A court while giving custody involves many pointers as there is no one simple formula it can follow and simply grant custody to any parent. Such as, if a child is not a minor, the court asks them to choose the parent they would want to stay with.
A child from Ghaziabad when asked the same question, said,
My mother couldn’t take care of me as she was busy complaining against my father and finding faults with him. She forgot that she has me in her life too.
And the child chose father over mother and decided to stay with him.
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Other areas that court refers to while deciding child custody cases are:
- Financial stability of the custodial parent
- Their mental and physical well-being
- The child’s comfort with the said parent, especially while growing up
- The intention of the custodian (any Malafide, i.e; wrong or false intention that may harm the child)
- That no specific gender has the right on the child over and above the welfare of the child
- The judge has the full right to decide what is best for the child. The child may also choose for themselves
- It is not the child over whom parents can fight over or claim. It is only the child’s welfare, growth, and safety
- The child is not a source to inherit the property in cases of divorce and maintenance
Through its decision, the court makes sure that the child is not used and their healthy development is ensured.
- The word ‘custody’ when it comes to humans is itself very inhuman
- Most Men’s Rights Activists have been advocating the term ‘shared parenting’
- Divorce is not taboo — if a couple develops irreconcilable differences amongst each other — it is better for them to separate, instead of children living in a vicious and abusive environment
- No divorce can come without bitterness from either side, however, parents should refrain from using children to settle score with the other
- Often, most disgruntled mothers brainwash their children against fathers, and by the time the child is matured enough to understand the term ‘divorce’ he/she has already drifted apart from the separated father
- Many women also use the pretext of children welfare for demanding endless maintenance from husbands
- As witnessed above, even despite court orders, most custodial parents (largely the women) find ways from keeping children away from meeting with fathers
- Maternal grandparents take over the children completely, thereby leaving the father and his parents only longing to see the child
- Last but not the least, the role of a separated father only becomes prime when it comes to taking monthly allowance
- Most men either separated or divorced are reduced to mere ATMs without having any say or rights over the welfare of their children
- Often such men tend to live a lonely and depressed life