Custody Battles: When Children Pay The Price Of Discord
Marriage as an institution is hailed as the cornerstone of our society. In countries like ours, marriage isn’t just a commitment between a couple, it’s a social and familial commitment as well. Marriage brings you honour and acceptance, but does it always bring you love and mental peace? Is matrimony an infallible alliance that comes with a guarantee card? With more and more people finding themselves disillusioned from this institution, seeking separation, where does it leave their matrimony? Within the course of a relationship, a couple builds a home, acquires assets and has children, and while the materialistic wealth can be divided to the last penny, what about the kids? Where does parents’ legal separation leave their children?
- Marriage is considered a personal, familial and social commitment in our society.
- With more and more people prioritising their personal well-being, we are witnessing a steep rise in cases of separation and divorce.
- While the joint assets of any couple can be divided to the last penny, what happens to their children?
- Can warring parents keep aside their differences and focus on what’s the best for their child?
Within the course of a relationship, a couple builds a home, acquires assets and has children, and while the materialistic wealth can be divided to the last penny, what about the kids?
Making observations in a case where a couple has been engaged in a bitter and prolonged marital dispute, the Supreme Court bench consisting of justices A M Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi observed recently that children pay the heaviest price in a custody battle. “In a custody battle, 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 court by its judicial process tells them to go with the parent whom he or she deems fit,” it said, reports Outlook.
The bench further added that any delay in decision certainly causes a great loss to the individual and deprives him/her of their rights which are protected under the Constitution, “and with every passing day, 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.”
According to statistics quoted in Psychology Today, the rate of divorce has doubled in the four decades between 1970 to 2008, globally. Even in a deeply conservative society like India, divorce and separation is finding social acceptance, but more with an attitude akin to resigning to fate. While modern couples have realised that “happily ever after” is hard to come by and that it is better to go on separate ways than to stay in an unhappy alliance for a lifetime, our society, led by leaders like Mr Mohan Bhagwat, are busy trying to find a head on which the blame for the crumble of Indian matrimony can be hung.
I agree, that there are times when each parent wants radically separate things for their child and themselves. But even then, is it not possible to slow down and ask yourself, is this truly what is best for my child?
Separations aren’t always amicable and often children end up being a bone of contention among warring parents. In many cases, the tussle for children’s custody isn’t about finding a solution that works best for both the parents and has the welfare of the ward at its hard. They are about one-upping each other, trying to inflict maximum pain and humiliation in that last parting shot that they have. But it is the very children in whose name these battles are fought, who end up being the worst-hit victims.
The Millennium Cohort study conducted on 6,245 children in 2019 observed a 16 percent rise in emotional problems such as anxiety and depression in minors between ages seven and 14, at the time their parents were undergoing separation. Instability at home can affect children emotionally, and parents hell-bent on disagreeing with one another over custody only make this worse. So does this mean that parents should sacrifice their personal happiness for the sake of their children and continue with their dysfunctional alliance? No. Firstly, because every person’s individual happiness matters. Secondly, how can an unhappy person be a happy parent, giving their child an upbringing that is emotionally healthy? And thirdly, co-parenting doesn’t mean living under the same roof.
Moms and dads can work out a way to do their parental duties despite not living together. What matters is that you find a way to keep your personal differences aside for the greater good. And that starts with the legal ordeal that is called divorce. Warring couples must realise that children are living, breathing human beings, who are emotionally fragile. They cannot be used as weapons to hurt or demean each other. I agree, that there are times when each parent wants radically separate things for their child and themselves. But even then, is it not possible to slow down and ask yourself, is this truly what is best for my child?
Image Credits: http://carson-family.org
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.