States’ view sought on need for law on joint custody of kids

New Delhi: The Centre has invited comments from state governments on whether new legislation is needed to be framed to facilitate joint custody of children in a divorced family.

People with direct knowledge of the matter said the central government had written to states and union territories seeking their views on the subject of shared parenting.

The Law Commission of India in its 257th report, titled Reforms in Guardianship and Custody Laws in India’, had recommended amendments in the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act, 1956 so as to bring these statutes in tune with the modern social considerations.

“Since the subject matter relates to a concurrent field subject … comments/views of the state governments and union territory administrations have been sought,” a senior government functionary said on the condition of anonymity.

In May 2015, the Law Commission had submitted a report to the then union law minister, Sadananda Gowda, recommending “the circumstances in which joint custody may be granted”.

The report said its views centred on strengthening the welfare principle in the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 and emphasising its relevance in each aspect of guardianship and custody related decision-making; providing for equal legal status of both parents with respect to guardianship and custody, and guidelines to help decision-makers assess what custodial and guardianship arrangement serves the welfare of the child in specific situations; and providing for the option of awarding joint custody to both parents in certain circumstances.

After perusing the international scenario, the panel had submitted “there is a broad awareness that the best way to reorganise a family after separation involves a consensual/extrajudicial solution that minimises conflict and encourages collaborative parenting”.

On the issue of visitation rights, the commission’s report said: “An order made by the court regarding visitation must ensure that a child has frequent and continuing contact with both parents, when appropriate, and also with extended family and friends; and both parents have equal opportunities to spend quality time with the child, including during holidays and vacations”.

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