Granting a father overnight access to his minor child, the Bombay high court observed that a ‘child requires love, affection and quality time to be spent with both the parents’ for overall development and hence, separated parents must set aside their ‘acrimonious past and hatred’.
Justice Milind Jadhav, granted the father overnight access to his seven-year-old son on May 23, so that the father and child could spend time together during the child’s summer vacation, from May 24 to June 5.
The court noted that both the parents had common responsibilities and even if they were separated, they still had to ‘helm the primary responsibility of upbringing and development of the child’, said the HC. “For this, the child requires love, affection and quality time to be spent with both parents. Setting aside the acrimony between the parties before me, at this stage the most important focus should be at the development of the child in his formative years, which is extremely important for his age, as he possesses a good intelligent quotient (IQ),” Justice Jadhav said.
The couple was married in 2012 and their son was born in April 2015; in September of the following year, the couple separated, with their divorce petition under the Special Marriage Act pending before the family court.
Pending divorce, the father had sought overnight access to his child during summer vacation from April 30 to June 5, which was allowed by the family court.
The mother, who has permanent custody of the child, challenged this before the HC and sought that the father only be given daytime access to the son in the children’s room at the Family Court premises at Bandra.
Justice Jadhav noted in his order that he interacted with the child in his chamber, where he found the child to be ‘highly reciprocative’. “From his body language, demeanour, replies and answers given to a gamut of general questions put to him, he proved to be more than intelligent for his age. His reflexes were very sharp,” noted the HC.
Apart from citing safety issues, the mother contended that after her mother-in-law’s demise, there was no woman in his house who could take care of the child.
The father, on the other hand, argued that the mother had agreed to grant overnight access while signing the consent terms, but had failed to honour it.
The judge observed that the bond between the father and son was strong and the child “has virtually no inhibition in interacting with the respondent (father) and reminiscing about the good old memories of time spent together by them in the past”.
The court also noted the fact that in December 2019, the child, who was then four-and-a-half years old, had visited Dubai for seven days, with his father and grandfather.
Since seven days of the overnight access granted by the family court had already been utilised, the HC modified the dates of overnight access.
As a precaution, the HC has directed the father not to take the child outside India for any trip or holiday. Apart from taking proper care of the child, the father has been directed to allow the child to speak with the mother twice a day, or as per the child's wish.
The court even reprimanded the mother for making comments against the judges. “.. the Petitioner (mother) should refrain from making comments about judges and comment only on the facts of the case. Merely narrating superfluous English words in pleadings cannot enhance the strength and quality of the case,” said the HC.