IN my previous article on this subject, I made a case for fathers paying maintenance for children during the lockdown. The logical question that then arises is- What about the father’s rights to visitation during the lockdown?
Notably, nothing S 26 of Hindu Marriage underlines the father’s rights in a divorce case as Access. So what happens to access for fathers during these long months of the lockdown?
In a recent case in Bombay High Court Justice S J Katha Walla, while hearing a plea in the matrimonial dispute, directed the woman to make arrangements for her estranged husband to see their two minor children through video conference until the lockdown is lifted in Mumbai. This is a progressive order that further emphasizes on the rights of a father to child access.
Usually, in bitterly fought access and custody matters the mothers tend to forget that the father also has a right to meet the child. The father also loves the child although that love may manifest itself in different ways than the mother’s. Most importantly, the child has a right to the love of both parents. Research has shown that children who get the love of both parents develop well-rounded personalities and are better adjusted than children who are deprived of that.
In Rena’s* case, who died of cancer, she had not let daughter Natasha* meet the father or his family much. Now, the father and daughter are both seeing a counsellor to repair their relationship. These are all practical issues that need to be thought about when the divorce battle is being fought out and not in retrospect with regret.
If we were to put aside the legalese and just think about it as a mature adult what has the child done to deserve losing the love of one parent? For that matter, why should the child lose the financial stability that the father may be able to provide?
Of course, in following situations child access is not advisable:
If there is domestic violence in a marriage.
If the father is a sexual predator and may or already has sexually abused the child.
The syndrome of parental alienation where a child may become estranged from one parent due to the psychological manipulation of the other parent. In other words, the father tries to alienate the child from the mother by tutoring the child against her.Also where the father seeks to gain custody of the child in order to avoid giving maintenance
A situation where the father tries to buy the child’s affections by promising unlimited financial benefits as long as the child is with the father. There’s a case that I am handling right now where the father has flouted the maintenance orders and has been compelling the child to leave the mother and enjoy an expansive lifestyle by staying with him.
In other than the aforementioned cases, a child need not be deprived of father’s love. All cases of divorces needn’t be bitter especially when there is a child involved. The parents should put the wellbeing of the child as supreme, as the court does. Love needs to be multiplied not divided like a marriage which is getting divided.
[Vandana Shah is a Senior Counsel at National Commission for Women]
Note: This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the authors’ own.