Subsequent to Law Commission’s report and recommendation on Shared parenting and Joint Custody to Law Ministry, a Mumbai family court has ordered both mother and father to jointly share custody of their six years old daughter.
In a landmark order, the family court in the city has for the first time set out a shared parenting plan for a warring couple fighting for divorce on the grounds of cruelty and for custody of their child. By this order the estranged couple gets almost equal days -split six months down the year -with their six-year-old daughter as an interim measure till the disposal of the divorce plea.
The child was in the physical custody of the father and the order brings relief to the non-custodial mother. The child will be in physical custody of the father from January 1 till June 30 and with the mother for the remainder of the year. Vacations will also be split equally. The father is a doctor, the mother a nurse.
While this is an order for interim custody, there is already a judgment for shared custody of child by Karnataka High Court in another case earlier.
The release of report by law commission has been a factor leading to this bold step by the judge, which seemingly in this case takes away full custody rights from father and grants shared custody to both parents, but the same argument and precedent can now be used by fathers to get shared custody in their cases.
In developed nations, the law requires that the court-ordered parenting plans must set forth the minimum amount of parenting time and access a non-custodial parent is entitled to have, said the judge and set out a general format for a similar plan in he city. “This is a first occasion in history of family court Mumbai that by judicial order this court is handing over a parenting plan to parties to follow as an interim measure,“ said he judge.
Another important point is that apart from physical custody, there is direction given about freedom of communication of child with both parents via telephone or internet, which is quite necessary given the fact that many parents may be living at a distance if in same city; or even in different cities; and in those cases not having a communication with child means the child will tend to forget or have a ‘visiting’ type of relationship with the non-custodial parent. I take the following measure to be very important because in India such orders are not made at all, given that the standard visitation orders in Indian family courts are for 2 visits for 3 hours each in a month. That becomes more of a joke with routine disobedience of the order by mothers mostly, and the child almost tends to forget the non-custodial parent, fathers in most cases.
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It said: “Both parents have a right to unimpeded telephone and webcam conversations with the child at least twice a week. And the right to send gifts with no censoring and receive news on any illness..“
Of course, the divorce industry, feminist lawyers, and some perennially oppressed so called women-empowerment wallahs will feel distressed by this order, because even though it gave relief to the woman in the case; in the long run it could be a major deterrent to using children as bargaining chips in maintenance and divorce proceedings by women. Now it’s up to men to take it forward and make sure that such orders become more and more common, rather than merely trying to find a good divorce lawyer and asking MRAs about “how to get rid of my cases”. There will never be any good divorce lawyers for men, period! The society will not let a man out of marriage easily no matter whether he is at fault or not; and anyway when there are children in marriage, all arguments about cruelty of wife have to be taken separately from welfare of children, but that common sense argument is lost on many men in my experience.