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Custodial battles are traumatic for children PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sudipa Chakrabarty   

The subject of child custody is one of the most contentious issues in the family courts today. Chethana Kumble, cricketer Anil Kumble's wife, has now moved the Supreme Court for keeping the custody of her child from her first husband, revealing how burning this issue is. Sumitra Acharya, Karnataka High Court lawyer dealing on child custody rights, spoke to Sudipa Chakrabarty on the issue.

What are the factors that the court considers in a custody case?
The first thing that the court considers, while deciding on child custody, is what constitutes the best interest of the child. The court has to keep in mind many factors when it takes this decision. Some of the important factors include the mental and physical health of the parents, age of the child, prior behaviour of the parents, including any history of abuse, the ability of each parent etc. Again each case is unique. The court's decision depends on the circumstances of each case.

Does the court consider a child's wishes in a custody dispute?
If the child is less than eight years, the court will not talk to the child as he/she is not mature enough to make a decision for himself/herself. But, if the child is able to make a decision, the court does consider his/her opinion. However, in most of the cases, the child is tutored by the parents. He/she is basically treated as a tool to settle scores between the clashing parents.

Are there mandatory counselling sessions for the parents who file for child custody case?
There is no such mandatory counselling sessions. There are chamber discussions between the parents and the child in court rooms. If a party (parent) objects to access rights of the child (visitation), the judge will call for chamber discussions, that takes place in the court itself. There's no fixed time-frame for such cases to be resolved. Usually, it takes about 2-3 years.
In all these cases, the child suffers a lot. Your comments.
The child has to go through a lot of trauma. He/she is brought into the court premises in the middle of a large crowd where the child is often seen helplessly crying. There're no counsellors, no separate play areas to keep the child busy. It is pathetic to see the conditions of these children. There should be a separate independent body of child activists consisting of child psychologists who would study the situation, understand the emotional make-up of the child and submit a report to the court. The court should, accordingly, take a decision.

Can a non-parent obtain custody of a child?
Yes, grandparents are the most likely non-parents to petition the court for custodial rights. They have the right to petition for custody as does anyone else. The court must be petitioned with a strong case that the non-parent has a meaningful relationship with the child.

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