Child Custody

Child custody and legal guardianship are legal terms which are used to describe the legal and practical relationship between a parent and his or her child, such as the right of the child to make decisions and the parent's duty to care for the child.

Section 26 of the Hindu Marriage act, 1955 deals with custody of children

In any proceeding under this Act, the court may, from time-to-time, pass such interim orders and make such provisions in the decree as it may deem just and proper with respect to the custody, maintenance and education of minor children, consistently with their wishes, wherever possible and may, after the decree, upon application by petition for the purposes make from time-to-time, all such orders and provisions with respect to the custody, maintenance and education of such children as might have been made by such decree or interim orders in case the proceeding for obtaining such decree were still pending and the court may also from time-to-time revoke, suspend or vary any such orders and provisions previously made:

Provided that the application with respect to the maintenance and education of the minor children, pending the proceeding for obtaining such decree, shall as far as possible, be disposed of within sixty days from the date of service of notice on the respondent.

Section 38 of the Special Marriage Act, 1954 deals with custody of children

In any proceeding under Chapter V or Chapter VI the District Court may, from time-to-time, pass such interim orders and make such provisions in the decree as it may seem to it to be just and proper with respect to the custody, maintenance and education of minor children, consistently with their wishes wherever possible, and may, after the decree, upon application by petition for the purpose, make, revoke, suspend or vary, from time-to-time, all such orders and provisions with respect to the custody, maintenance education of such children as might have been made by such decree or interim orders in case the proceedings for obtaining such decree were still pending.

Provided that the application with respect to the maintenance and education of the minor children, during the proceeding, under Chapter V or Chapter VI, shall as far as possible, be disposed of within sixty days from the date of service of  the notice on the respondent.

Section 41 of the divorce act, 1869 deals with custody of children for couple of Christian Faith

Power to make orders as to custody of children in suit for separation- In any suit for obtaining a judicial separation the Court may from time-to-time, before making its decree, make such interim orders, and may mill such provision in the decree, as it deems proper with respect to the custody maintenance and education of the minor children, the marriage of whose parents is the subject of such suit, and may if it thinks fit, direct proceedings to be taken for placing such children under the protection of said Court.

Section 42, Power to make such orders after decree

The Court, after a decree of judicial separation, may upon application (by petition) for this purpose make, from time-to-time, all such orders and provisions, with respect to the custody, maintenance and education of the minor children, the marriage of whose parents is the subject of the decree, or for placing such children under the protection of the said Court, as might have been made by such decree or by interim orders in case the proceedings for obtaining such decree were still pending.

Custody under Hindu Law

All the personal law matrimonial statutes make provisions for dealing with the issue of child custody. The provisions in the matrimonial Acts can, however, be invoked only when there are some proceedings pending under the Act. Hindus have an additional Act, viz the Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956 (HMGA). Apart from this, there is the Guardians and Wards Act 1890 (GWA). This is a secular law for appointment and declaration of guardians and allied matters, irrespective of caste, community or religion, though in certain matters, the court will give consideration to the personal law of the parties. The provisions of the HMGA (and other personal laws) and the GWA are complementary and not in derogation to each other, and the courts are obliged to read them together in a harmonious way. In determining the question of custody and guardianship, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the minor. The word `welfare' has to be taken in its widest sense, and must include the child's, moral as well as physical well-being, and also have regard to the ties of affection.''

Physical Custody

Physical custody involves the day-to-day care of a child and establishes where a child will live. A parent with physical custody has the right to have his/her child live with him/her.

If a child lives with both parents, each parent shares "joint physical custody" and each parent is said to be a "custodial parent". Thus, in joint physical custody, neither parent is said to be a "non-custodial parent." In joint physical custody, actual lodging and care of the child is shared according to a court-ordered custody schedule (also known as a "parenting plan" or "parenting schedule") In many cases, the term "visitation" is no longer used in this context, but rather is reserved to sole custody orders. Terms of art such as "primary custodial parent" and "primary residence" have no legal meaning other than for determining tax status, and both parents are still said to be "custodial parents".

In some states, "joint physical custody" creates a presumption of "equal shared parenting". However, in most states, joint physical custody only creates an obligation to provide each of the parents with "significant periods" of physical custody so as to assure the child of "frequent and continuing contact" with both parents.[4] Courts have not clearly defined what "significant periods" and "frequent and continuous contact" mean, which requires parents to litigate to find out.

If a child lives with one parent, that parent has "sole physical custody" and is said to be the "custodial parent" whereas the other parent is said to be the "non-custodial parent", but may have visitation rights or "visitation" with his/her child.

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