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Give kids in custody battles a voice PDF Print E-mail
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Written by NG SHU TSUNG   

IT is heartbreaking to read the parents’ continued squabble with little regard to the emotional state of the child suffering from terminal cancer (“Let children speak and be heard” – Sunday Star, April 17).

While there is no such thing as a happy divorce, it has been rightly pointed out that the wishes of the child must be seriously taken into consideration.

It is the parents’ duty to understand that their children must never be blamed for their separation, although practically, and in reality, children, especially those not yet in their teens, often blame themselves for things that they are unable to understand.

All children must be made to understand as far as possible why mummy and daddy are no longer going to stay together.

Ideally, it is the duty of each parent to shield their offspring mentally and emotionally whatever the reasons for the divorce.

The children must never be used as pawns in the tussle between the parents. The emotional trauma of the separation and court tussle most often will have an adverse emotional effect on the children, even many years into adulthood. Some even can’t get over it for the rest of their lives.


Court battles for child custody often see both parents running down each other with exaggerated claims on issues ranging from well being, capability, financial, mental state to religion.

No matter how the custody fight turns out, no one party would be satisfied with the court decision, leading to appeals, thus dragging the matter further instead of moving on in life.

It is also not far fetched for one divorced parent to overwhelm the children with adverse stories of the other parent. Very often the child will have to listen to the same stories over and over again.

This often leads to parent-child relationships to be strained, as the child is more than fed up listening to old stories repeated over the years, and sometimes decades, while the parent remains frustrated that the child shows little interest in the stories.

At the end of the day, more often than not, it’s the child who suffers the most.

Also, many of the laws are not enforceable by the child in question. In fact, the wishes of the child can be completely overruled in court.

It should be mandatory for a child psychiatrist to be present during custody battles as the voice of the child needs to be heard and given due respect.

While the parents are represented by lawyers, it is only fair that a neutral psychiatrist looks after the welfare of the child and has legislative powers to influence court decisions.

It is good that Suhakam is holding a watching brief in the Low Bi-Anne case as the dispute has gone on for a long time already with no solution in sight.

It would be better if our laws allow Suhakam to intervene in a custody battle by way of being able to provide a written allowable opinion in its affidavit to enable the judge to form a better decision.


Kuala Lumpur.


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