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Breakdown of Marriage Does Not End Parental Responsibilities: SC

NEW DELHI:
The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that in a child custody battle, the rights of the child need to be respected as he/she is entitled to the love of both parents, and even if there is a breakdown of marriage, it does not signify the end of parental responsibility, as it is the child who suffers the most in a matrimonial dispute.

A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and A.M. Khanwilkar said: “While deciding the matters of custody of the child, primary and paramount consideration is always the welfare of the child. The courts should decide the issue of custody on a paramount consideration which is in the best interest of the child who is the victim in the custody battle.”

In a custody battle, the top court observed that no matter which parent wins but the child is always the loser and it is the children who pay the heaviest price as they are shattered when the courts, through its judicial process, tells them to go with the parent whom he or she deems fit. The ruling came as the court heard a husband assailing the 2015 order of the Delhi High Court which partly allowed the appeal with the direction to the wife to comply with the consent terms, especially on the visitation rights of the husband to meet the son, who is now 11 years old. At the same time, visitation rights to meet the daughter, now 14 years old, were declined.

It was also observed that if the daughter wishes to meet her father, she can do so at her own desire. In 2016, the Delhi High Court directed a psychotherapist to ascertain the relationship of the children with their father and paternal grandparents before they joined the sole custody of their mother.

The civil matrimonial appeal was filed in the apex court, which held: “The child pays heavy price of being deprived of the love and affection of their parents for which they were never at fault but are always the loser which at no stage could be compensated monetarily or otherwise.”

In 2017, the apex court ruled, against the backdrop of a strained relationship between parents, that for the time being, it is in the interest of the children to be sent in a boarding school, as at this stage, it is not in their interest to have the exclusive company of either their father or their mother. The top court also made interim arrangements regarding custody/visitation rights of the parents.

While disposing the appeals, the top court said that its 2017 order shall continue until further orders and the parties are at liberty to take steps in filing of a custody/guardianship petition for the minor children before the competent court of jurisdiction.

“And taking note of the interest of the minor children as a paramount consideration being the sufferers of the matrimonial discord, if such an application is filed by either of the party, that may be decided by the court independently without being influenced/inhibited by the observations made in the instant proceedings expeditiously in accordance with law,” said the top court.

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