Divorced men filing PIL for shared parenting

‘Children need a father too, why favour women only when deciding custody battles?’

NEW DELHI: The best thing a child can have is love, affection and the company of both parents. But that seldom happens if the parents are locked in bitter courtroom battles.

To prevent children from going through the ordeal of choosing one parent, an NGO called Children Rights Initiative for Shared Parenting (CRISP) is filing a PIL in Supreme Court seeking guidelines for judges to determine the best interest of children while deciding child custody matters.

Bitter about the fact that mothers are generally favoured over fathers in child custody cases, over 500 aggrieved fathers, including NRIs, have joined hands to prepare the petition while expressing their wishes to change nappies and be with their children.

The group has recommended that due consideration be given to the presence of a father in the child’s upbringing. It wants India to be a signatory to the International Hague Convention for honouring foreign court judgments in India.

The NGO has also demanded that courts be sensitive to the fact that grandparents too have love for their grandchildren and should not be deprived of that. Guardianship courts should be opened specifically for custody matters so that they are not mixed up with marital problems.

“It is just impossible for a single parent to fulfil the rising demands of children so both parents have to co-operate in raising their children in spite of separation,” said Kumar Jahgirdar, who is leading the campaign. Jahgirdar is locked in a custody battle for his daughter with former wife Chetna, now cricketer Anil Kumble’s wife.

Child psychologists feel that unless there is a clear case of abuse, violence or neglect, there is no reason why one parent should be kept away from the child. “Children from broken families go through a lot of upheavals. Young teenagers who are away from fathers often develop complex behavioural problems. Hence, it is extremely important for the child to get the balance of both parents,” said Dr Shelja Sen, a psychologist and family therapist at Sitaram Bhartia Institute, Delhi.

CRISP has suggested various models for shared parenting: In case where both parents reside in the same city, the child can stay with one parent during the weekdays and with the other during weekends. If parents are not in the same city, custody can be given on a 50-50 basis. Small children may be given to the mother but with generous visitation rights to the father.

“The institution of marriage in India is crumbling. Two out of five marriages end in divorces in Mumbai  and 10 divorces are filed daily in Delhi. Since children become the objects of the ego war between erring parents, the custody battle becomes a heinous poison which strangulates innocent childhood,” Jahgirdar said.

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