Report No. 257
D. Summary of Responses received by the Commission
1.7.1 Of the 125 responses, most were in favour of shared custody. Some of the reasons for this were:
- Children need both their mother and father-they seek advice from each parent in different situations.
- Children need adequate opportunities to bond with each parent.
- Shared physical custody without shared legal custody will lead a child to believe that the parents do not have equal moral authority. Shared legal custody without shared physical custody will prevent a child from bonding with both parents.
- Shared custody can reduce acrimony between the parents.
- Some women misuse the protections in Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, to take children away from their fathers. However, in shared custody arrangements, parental contact would be withheld only for child abuse, neglect, or mental illness. Children should have contact with both parents regardless of whether the parents reconcile.
- Gender-based stereotypes-e.g., that a girl child should be raised by the mother and a boy child by the father-are outdated. Both parents have valuable contributions to make in the lives of children of either gender.
1.7.2 A few reasons were given against a shared parenting law:
- During divorce proceedings, husbands use child custody to force their wives to give up maintenance or withdraw criminal complaints.
- It is not healthy for a child to move between two homes. A stable, anchored home is the best option.
- In a patriarchal society where women and children are often harassed, ensuring the child's safety could be a problem.
- Where parents have unresolved issues, they will not be able to agree on joint decisions for the child.
- India does not have the necessary supportive measures, such as: laws for division of matrimonial property; the right to reside in the matrimonial home; a financial plan for the future security of the caretaker spouse; and foster homes for the children.
- It could be used to harass women.
1.7.3 Several respondents had suggestions on how to implement a shared parenting system in India:
- Courts are not well suited to adjudicate custody disputes. Instead, mediation centres should be set up, staffed by people trained in advising parties on issues pertaining to children and relationships. Lawyers will just make the situation worse.
- Parents should have to submit a "Parenting Plan" which provides the personal profile, educational qualification, residence, and income of both parties.
- Parents should open a joint bank account that can only be used for the child's expenses.