Form independent lawyers’ panel to protect children’s interests: Bar assn to family court in Mumbai
The Family Court Bar Association has requested the principal judge of the family court in Bandra to form a panel of independent lawyers to protect the interest of children whose parents are involved in bitter legal fights.
The family court bar association has submitted a representation to the principal judge after noticing that in several matters reaching the family court, children are either neglected or used as a tool by one parent to settle personal scores.
After the family court reopened post the Covid-induced lockdown, it witnessed a surge in the petitions related to conflicts between spouses with regards to access to a child / children, and a family court had to appoint independent lawyers in at least two matters for protecting rights of the children of spouses involved in bitter matrimonial discord.
The Family Court Bar Association on Tuesday wrote to the principal judge, family court, to form a panel of independent lawyers to protect the interests of children.
“In many cases, issues related to maintenance and access to children) are avoided and it is affecting the upbringing of the children. At times the children are used as a tool to settle their personal score in matrimonial proceedings,” said the representation.
“It is observed that the children are the silent sufferers and mostly not heard and not represented parties in the matrimonial proceedings. In many cases children are at high risk to suffer from Parenting Alienation Syndrome (PAS) which is affecting the mental health and psychological aspects of children (sic),” the association’s letter added.
The association believes that an independent children’s lawyer would help to protect the child’s interest in maintenance, custody /access and other related issues to the welfare and upbringing of the children.
The association has also suggested a host of guidelines for the independent children’s lawyer and those include that they shall be in regular touch with the child before every date and shall express the child’s views before the Court.
The independent children’s lawyer, according to the association, should look into the academic performance of the child, and in case of child sexual abuse the independent children’s lawyer shall visit Child Welfare Committee (CWC) or police or other authorities concerned and report it to the court. The association also suggested that the independent children’s lawyer can get the help of a child psychologist if a child needs one.
The concept of appointing independent children’s lawyer began in December 2019 when family court judge PL Palsingankar for the first time ordered appointment of an independent lawyer for a seven year old boy whose parents failed to come to terms over the issue of access to the child during school vacations.
The court said independent lawyers should be appointed for children, especially where there are allegations of abuse or neglect in relation to the child / children, in highly contested matters, where there are allegations of tutoring the children and mental health issues alleged to exist in relation to one or both of the parents.
While describing the role of the independent children’s lawyer, the court said, “the independent children’s lawyer shall give his/her frank opinion about of the health physical and mental of child/children, progress of child/children academic and extra curricular, attachment with parents, use of the child/ children, independent opinion whether child/children is/are tutored or brain washed by particular parent either custodial or non custodial.”