Who gets the child’s custody anyway?
Child Custody

Who gets the child’s custody anyway?

It is nerve-wrecking for me to even think about the agony couples suffer while their marriage falls apart. But it pains us so much more to imagine the suffering their child experiences in the process. Yes, you read it right, we are talking about the painful process of getting divorced from your spouse and the struggle thereafter of getting the custody of your child(ren). The whole journey of separation is ugly but settling the matter of child custody is even uglier. While amicable resolution is a possibility, in reality it is farfetched considering the relations between two adults have already turned bitter due to irreconcilable differences and sometimes inflated egos.

This makes us ponder over the first thought that would possibly come in the minds of divorced parents – who gets the child’s custody after separation? There could be reasons for which each parent would want to win the custody of the child after divorce. Division of parental property, financial support for child’s education, good upbringing, safety and maintenance, visit rights, alimony, comfort with the child, right to take decisions with regard to child’s life, etc. are some that we could imagine. They would hire the best child custody lawyer to win the custody and block it for the other parent. However, as per the Indian child custody law, both parents have equal rights over the child even after their legal separation. The custody of the child who is less than 18 years in age only implies, with which parent the child will physically stay. One parent winning the custody does not mean that the other parent seizes to be the parent of the child and loses all rights over the child. The child custody law clearly states that irrespective of their marriage being annulled, they continue to be the natural guardians of the child. In other words, the custodial parent becomes the primary caretaker and the non-custodial parent retains the right to meet the child.

In most of the cases in India, the custody of the child is granted, by the family court, to one parent and the access of child is granted to both of them. Data clearly shows that out of around 90 cases in a particular year, the custody of the child has been granted to fathers in only 2 cases. What does this signify? Do mothers have an upper hand in the child custody cases in India? No, despite data favouring the mothers, it is not the case. Many-a-times fathers also believe that they can claim the custody once the child attains a particular age. However, this is nothing more than a myth, a disbelief that many continue to live with.

It has been evident in several landmark judgements that the courts have given high importance to the best interest and the ‘right of the child’ compared to the ‘right of a parent’ than anything else while assigning the custody after divorce to a particular parent. However, there may be exceptions or special circumstances that courts consider on case-to-case basis. For example, a) in case a child is less than 5 years old, the custody is usually given to the mother, b) generally father gets the custody of older boys and mother is given the custody of older girls and c) courts also consider the choice of the child who is above the age of 9 years.

 

It brings us to a point where it becomes imperative to throw light on the types of child custody allowed by Indian law. It can be one of the following kinds:

  • Physical Custody – where the child is handed over to the custodial parent for living and the other parent is allowed to visit, meet and interact with the child at regular intervals.
  • Joint Custody – where child lives with both parents on rotational basis and duration of child’s stay may vary from several days to weeks to months based on mutual agreement between the separated parents.
  • Sole Custody – where the child is handed over entirely to one parent in case the court finds the other parent to be abusive, unstable, offensive or incapable of upbringing the child.
  • Third Party Custody – where a guardian or third person gets the custody of the child from court instead of the biological parents. This is also often termed as non-parental custody.

We must also briefly know legal provisions that are applicable. In India, the Guardian and Wards Act 1890 has provisions related to child custody after divorce. At the same time, India is a vast nation with diverse religions and there are corresponding laws to deal with separation and child custody. The legal provisions that exist in the Indian Constitution based on the religion we belong to are:

  • Custody under Hindu Law – which has provisions under the Hindu Marriage Act 1955 (section 26), the Special Marriage Act 1954 (section 38) and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956.
  • Custody under Muslim Law – which allows only the mother to seek custody of her child(ren) under the Right of Hizanat.
  • Custody under Christian Law – which allows for child custody under the Divorce Act 1869 (section 41) only after separation decree is granted.
  • Custody under Parsi Law – which allows for child custody under the Guardian and Wards Act 1890 and gives high importance to welfare of the child.

 

It is already a nightmare for parents who are beleaguered with separation. Adding to woes, is the complications of getting the custody of their biological child(ren). It is a battle that none would want to lose. Imagine yourself in this situation where you are looking for information on how decisions are taken and judgements granted with respect to child custody after divorce. The best way is to contact a child custody lawyer who not only can guide you in the process but sail you through with bare minimum stress. 

चाइल्ड कस्टडी की मामलों में बच्चे की इच्छा भी बहुत महत्वपूर्ण: सर्वोच्च न्यायलय
Child Custody

चाइल्ड कस्टडी की मामलों में बच्चे की इच्छा भी बहुत महत्वपूर्ण: सर्वोच्च न्यायलय

Case: Smriti Madan Kansagra v Perry Kansagra (Civil Appeal No. 3559/2020)

Section 17(3) of the Guardian & Wards Act 1890

17(3), the preferences and inclinations of the child are of vital importance for determining the issue of custody of the minor child. Section 17(5) further provides that the court shall not appoint or declare any person to be a guardian against his will".

Smriti Madan Kansagra v Perry Kansagra (Civil Appeal No. 3559/2020) केस जहाँ Guardian & Wards Act 1890  की धारा 17(3) को समक्ष रखते हुए माननीय सर्वोच्च न्यायालय ने ये माना की चाइल्ड कस्टडी की मामले में नाबालिग की इच्छा भी सामान रूप से महत्वपूर्ण है तथा उसकी वरीयताओं पर भी विचार किया जाना चाहिए खास कर जब वो एक ऐसे उम्र में हो जहां उसमे अपनी पसंद और नापसंद की बारे में पर्याप्त जानकारी हो तथा वो भी अपनी वरीयता की अनुसार चुनाव करने योग्य हो.

सुप्रीम कोर्ट की तीन जज की बेंच जिसमे न्यायमूर्ति यु यु ललित, न्यायमूर्ति इंदु मल्होत्रा तथा न्यायमूर्ति हेमंत गुप्ता थे उन्होंने एक अत्यंत महत्वपूर्ण फैसले में एक नाबालिग बालक की कस्टडी उसके पिता को प्रदान की जो की नैरोबी, केन्या  में रहते है।

यह क़ानूनी लड़ाई लगभग दस साल चली जिसमे आदित्य (वह नाबालिग बालक जिसकी कस्टडी की लिए ये केस था) की कस्टडी की लिए उसके माता पिता ने परिवार कोर्ट से ले कर सुप्रीम कोर्ट तक ये कठिन कनूनी राह तय की तथा अंततः सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने आदित्य की सम्पूर्ण कस्टडी उसके पिता को प्रदत्त की।

यह जानना भी बेहद रोचक है की इस लम्बी और कठिन क़ानूनी लड़ाई की दौरान माननीय न्यायमूर्ति आदित्य से व्यक्तिगत रूप से अपने चैम्बर में कई बार मिले और यह जानने की कोशिश करी की आदित्य की व्यक्तिगत राय क्या है तथा उसकी वरीयता में उसके माता या पिता में उसकी अधिक नज़दीकी किसके साथ है। इस प्रकार की अनौपचारिक बातचीत से माननीय न्यायमूर्ति संतुष्ट हुए की बालक की समझ और वरीयता में वो अपने पिता से ज्यादा करीब था तथा उसकी इच्छा अपने पिता के साथ रहने की थी।

माननीय सुप्रीम कोर्ट ने अपने फैसले में स्पष्ट तौर Guardian & Wards Act 1890 अधिनियम की धारा १७(३)  का उल्लेख किया तथा स्पष्ट किया की इस केस में बालक की भविष्य का फैसला इस प्रकार से होना चाहिए जो उसके भले के लिए सर्वोपरि हो तथा उसके सभी हितों की सम्पूर्ण रक्षा भी हो।

माननीय सुप्रीम को ने परिवार कोर्ट, हाई कोर्ट के फैसले तथा कौंसिलर की रिपोर्ट को भी बहुत गौर से परखा और पाया की बालक आदित्य ने अपने पिता की अधिक झुकाव दिखाया था। अपने फैसले को अंतिम रूप देते हुए माननीय सर्वोच्च न्यायालय ने बालक की हितों को सर्वोपरि मानते हुए उसकी संगरक्षण की ज़िम्मेदारी उसके पिता को सौंप दी। सुप्रीम कोर्ट का पूरा फैसला यहाँ से पढ़े।:

https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/8161/8161_2020_34_1501_24506_Judgement_28-Oct-2020.pdf

 

Child’s wish & will is important in a Child Custody matter: Hon’ble Supreme Court
Child Custody

Child’s wish & will is important in a Child Custody matter: Hon’ble Supreme Court

Case: Smriti Madan Kansagra v Perry Kansagra (Civil Appeal No. 3559/2020)

Section 17(3) of the Guardian & Wards Act 1890

17(3), the preferences and inclinations of the child are of vital importance for determining the issue of custody of the minor child. Section 17(5) further provides that the court shall not appoint or declare any person to be a guardian against his will".

Section 17(3) was the guiding light to the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Smriti Madan Kansagra v Perry Kansagra (Civil Appeal No. 3559/2020) wherein Hon’ble Court observed that while deciding the child custody matter the Court should also consider the preferences of the minor child if he or she is aged enough to form a well thought & intelligent choice.

 

The bench of Hon’ble Justices UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and Hemant Gupta decided the matter. In this matter the child custody was awarded to the father who was based out in Kenya.

 

It was long legal batter between the parents from family court, to the high court to Hon’ble Supreme Court and with more than 10 years of legal struggle finally the father was able to get the custody of his boy Aditya.

It was interesting to note that Hon’ble judged met the child personally many times during the case proceedings to ascertain his inclination and preference. They also tried to understand child’s choice towards his family members.  

Hon’ble court quoted section 17(3) in the judgement and also observed the same principle in the instant case that the sole consideration should be to protect the interest and welfare of the child.

While considering the findings of the Family Court, the High Court and the Report of the Counsellor, Hon’ble Supreme Court found that the child showed more inclination towards his father and concluded that it would be in the best interest of the child to transfer custody to his father because if the preferences of the child were not given due regard, it could have an adverse psychological impact on the child.

Read the complete judgement from here:

https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2020/8161/8161_2020_34_1501_24506_Judgement_28-Oct-2020.pdf