In a landmark judgement, the Mumbai family court denied exclusive custody of an eight-year-old girl to one parent on Wednesday. The court laid down a parenting plan in which it stated that the girl will stay with her mother for 183 days in a year and for 182 days with her father.
The court was hearing a petition filed by a woman, a nurse by profession, seeking exclusive custody of her daughter against her doctor husband. While the woman alleged her husband is too busy to look after the child, he maintained that he is financially more capable for giving their child a good future.
After several hearings, the court asked the couple to arrive at a mutual consent. However, when they failed, judge PL Palsingankar, with the suggestions and advice from the lawyers, a marriage counselor and a child psychologist put forth a detailed plan, involving the parents and their lawyers.
Quoting law commission reports, the 29-page order gives a detailed plan for the parents. As per the order, the child will stay with her mother from July 1 to December 31 and from January 1 to June 30 with her father. While handing over the exclusive custody to each of the parent, the court said that the non-custodian parent would have access to the child every Sunday between 10am and 6pm.
Further, the couple will have to share the child’s expenses. “The husband did not want any contribution from the petitioner (wife) for maintenance of the daughter… Both are working and earning; so both should contribute for upbringing of the daughter,” the court observed.
Sujata Chavan, a former counselor with the family court, said, “Joint custody of a child is the solution to many matrimonial issues and will make things easy for the child.”
Sumangala Biradar, a family court lawyer fighting for women’s rights, said the order may affect the child adversely. “This order is the first of its kind. Only time will tell if this works, but it definitely sets an example for other courts,” she said.
## Family court chalks out parental plan
The court has asked parents to open a joint account in the name of the daughter where the father will deposit Rs 10,000 and the mother will deposit Rs 5,000 every month from this month. All expenses for the daughter such as education, medical, medical insurance, extracurricular and recreational activities will be borne using this money
The court said in cases of disagreement, the parents do not need to approach the court. It appointed Freni Italia, psychiatric social worker from MUSKAAN, an undertaking of Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), as a mediator
* Long holidays
The child will be with the mother for first half of long vacations - including summer, Diwali and Christmas – while she will be with the father during the second half
* Decision making
Each parent shall make decisions regarding the day-to-day care of a child while the child is residing with that parent, including emergencies with regards to the health or safety of the child. The parties shall jointly take major decisions such as non-emergency health care, religion, upbringing, extracurricular activities and obtaining passport
* Medication, illness or accident
If the child falls ill or is involved in an accident, the parent who has the child at the time of the illness or accident shall notify the other parent as soon as practicable but no later than three hours after the incident or diagnosis
* Penalty for non-compliance of terms
Non-compliance of the parenting plan may amount to breach of trust and parents are required to approach the court for appropriate action. Parties agree for following consequence for breach of access arrangement:
1. Compensatory access immediately in next week
2. Cost of Rs 1,000 for each day of loss of access
3. Social service of defaulting parent at remand home, orphanage
4. A forfeiture of access, if access not taken for three consecutive days without reasonable cause.
(f) Non-custodian parent will be eligible to apply to court for shifting of custody, in case intentional repeated defaults in giving access and visitation right to non-custodial parents.