Youngsters at crossroads in custody battles: 40-50 computer circumstances are “facade”, says Choose

New Delhi, December 22

Children are at “crossroads” and undergo “deep trauma” in custody litigations between estranged couples and almost 40-50 per cent of such fights are “fake” and “facade” to pursue a hidden agenda except for their welfare, a District Judge has said in her book.

Principal District Judge Poonam A Bamba, in the book, “Parents at War- Custody battles in Indian courts”, has narrated her judicial experience in dealing with the bitterly-fought custody battles in courts.

In an exclusive interaction with PTI on the book, the judge said fake custody litigations burden the judicial system, affected the children adversely and were taxing for all the parties concerned.

She said the book was an endeavour to bring forth the plight of the children who bear the brunt of custody battles between parents and undergo deep trauma.

“People separate after divorce and then the fight for custody starts. Battles become murkier. Both want custody of the child. The child is the ultimate sufferer here. He/she is at the crossroads of the litigation. Parents unknowingly cause permanent damage to the child. This book is an effort to bring this message to the parents that the welfare of the child is paramount,” Judge Bamba said.

Sharing real-life cases, she wrote in the book that the hidden agenda ranged from avenging the divorce petition filed by the custodial parent (a parent in the custody of the child) to a counterblast to a dowry case, to a complaint by the wife under the Domestic Violence Act.

“May I say that like drugs, custody litigation can also be spurious. Such cases may seem genuine at first glance but all are not so. Though I have not carried out any empirical study, it will not be incorrect to say that roughly 40 to 50 per cent of custody litigation has actually nothing to do with the custody of the child,” she said in the book.

“The custody petition is only a facade to pursue a hidden agenda, which could range from avenging the divorce petition filed by the custodial parent (a parent in the custody of the child) to a counterblast to a dowry case, to a complaint by the wife under the Domestic Violence Act. It could even be to pressurise or harass the wife who has filed a petition for maintenance for herself and the child.

“Such fake custody litigation, where the true intent is to achieve an oblique purpose, is wasteful and burdens the already burdened justice system. It is also physically, mentally and financially taxing to the other side. And of course, such litigation also puts the child under stress,” she wrote.

The book carries various stories from her private journal during her tenure at the family court. It talks about the importance of the judiciary, being “parens patriae” (public policy power of the state/court to intervene against an abusive or negligent parent, legal guardian, or informal caretaker), as well as the constraints of the courts.

“The courts’ task would have been so much simpler if they had a love-meter to measure the love and care each person claimed to have in his/her heart for the child,” Judge Bamba wrote.

The 240-page book has broken down legal cases into simple emotional tales and also talks about the legal process and the laws in layman’s terms.

“Each story carried a different emotion. Some were plain and simple angry stories, some very dejected, some hurtful, and some revengeful. At the bottom of most of these stories, all I found was insecurity. Custodial parents are insecure because they fear losing control. Non-custodial parents’ battles generally arise from a place of want, a feeling of deprivation,” the book said.

The judge said it was immensely taxing emotionally and mentally to see parents fight, sometimes throwing ugly accusations against each other.

“The constant bickering of the parents, the emotional trauma of the child affected me emotionally. At the end of the day, I just wanted to sit quietly at my chamber. Mediation and morning walk helped me deal with it,” she said.

“Parents at custody battles don’t want to talk to each other or come to an understanding. They see the other person from their lenses. To them, their suffering is paramount. All objectivity is lost. They are hardly able to see the child’s perspective,” she added.

She said besides psychological trauma, children sometimes developed psychosomatic symptoms and childhood wounds take a long time to heal.

“Children suffered from obesity, nausea, and aches. They develop trust issues and commitment issues. Their belief systems are developed based on their childhood trauma. They are impacted for a lifetime,” Judge Bamba said.

While citing a case in which one of the parents produced a psychologist’s report before the court to show how visits by the other parent were harming the child, the judge wrote non-availability of experts/ psychologists /psychiatrists in family courts was a constraint.

“It becomes quite a task for the court to arrive at its own conclusion after having before it such findings. However, the possibility of such reports being influenced can also not be ruled out… Non-availability of services of experts/psychologists/psychiatrists to Family Courts is deeply felt in such situations. Reference then needs to be made to psychiatrists/child psychologists at a government hospital and such an assessment is a long-drawn process requiring several sittings with the child,” the book stated.

The book also suggested solutions, from pre-litigation counselling, workshops for advocates to sensitising about children’s vulnerabilities and wishes, to co-parenting. PTI

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