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More women giving up child custody after divorce

Last updated: 01 February, 2010
New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) 16:13 IST

Their love marriage ended in three years and when it came to the fate of their child, Awantika did not hesitate to let her son stay with her ex-husband Rishi as he was close to his grandparents.

Not long ago, a mother willingly giving up the custody rights over her children during divorce proceedings was unthinkable but now women are beginning to consider the option for the sake of their kids' well-being.

Many mothers now wrestle with the questions like -- Do I really want custody? and Is this best for the child? -- before taking any decision. In some cases, they also feel that if the child is with them, it almost frees the fathers from all responsibilities.

"Just a few months after my marriage, I understood that my husband had an inferiority complex as I was a successful chartered accountant and his business was not doing very well but things were ok," said 32-year-old Deepika Seth.

"But gradually he became intolerable. He started objecting to my work-related trips and friend circles. Our love life was zero, so I decided to split but I cannot deny the fact that he is a great father to my three-year-old Krishma," said Deepika, who has given up custody rights over her daughter.

Kamini Jaiswal, a Supreme Court advocate, said, "In 90 per cent of cases, mothers still opt for the custody of their children; but now there are some cases where they willingly let go".

"Today's women do not want to be treated like a doormat because they are more confident and independent. If their married life is not compatible they opt for divorce but their maternal instinct is still intact. However, of late, there are at least some instances where mothers give up custody rights," Jaiswal said.

Divorce cases and custody battles have gone up significantly in India, especially in metros, in the last one decade. According to Delhi district court, over 11,000 matrimonial cases have been filed in 2008, while just five years ago the number was around 6000.
In recent years, courts have frowned on estranged couples fighting bitter legal battles for custodial rights.

In one of its judgements, the Delhi High Court said that couples facing matrimonial disputes and fighting over a child's custody should not be insensitive to the trauma the young one would be feeling.

Counsellor Gitanjali Sharma said, "This is an age of working couples and parenting is split between the mother and the father. While mothers are often considered the primary care givers, fathers are taking a much larger part in raising their children. Thus the kids do just as well with fathers as they do with mothers".

"So when the question of custody of children arises all these things are considered and sometimes mothers feel that father could take better care of the kids though it is still limited to very few cases," Sharma said.

However, the women, who decide to let go their children, also feel guilty and apologetic about it. So do women opt for custody due to social pressure?

"Of course, this plays an important role but the special bonding between the mother and kids is the most important reason why women fight for their children and law give them a preference too," another Supreme Court lawyer Minakshi Lekhi pointed out.

Lekhi, however, feels that only financially weaker women let go off their children.
"Financially weaker women have no other option as they cannot give their children a good upbringing due to lack of resources and thus they give up the custody of their kids for the sake of their bright future," Lekhi added.

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