Child can't be forced to reside in stepmother's company: Court

A child "cannot be forced to reside in the company of his stepmother and step-siblings," a Delhi court has said, while refusing a man the custody of his minor son from his first wife after his remarriage.

Guardian Judge Gautam Manan declined the man's plea for custody of his 13-year-old son from the first marriage and said, "The petitioner has remarried and also has children from the second marriage and thus the minor cannot be forced to reside in the company of his stepmother and step-siblings."

"Leaving the custody of the respondent (mother) will have adverse impact on the minor specially when he will see that his father has a separate family to look after."
The city resident had moved the court for his son's custody from his former wife saying he was better placed to take care of the child.

The man told the court that he had got married for the first time in 1997 but due to continued "harassment" by his wife, he had to move to a separate accommodation. He said the child was born in 2000 but due to "misbehaviour" of his wife, he was left with no option but to seek divorce. During his cross-examination, the man testified that he got divorced from his first wife in October 2004 and remarried in January 2005. He disclosed that he has got a girl child from second marriage and admitted that despite several years of court orders of visitation, his son has not become friendly with him.

Denying her former husband's allegations of misbehaviour against him, the child's mother told the court that she has taken good care of their son, who was now studying in a school in Shimla and staying in a hostel there.

She also told the court about the alleged harassment for dowry by her former husband and several excise cases against him. During an interaction with the minor, the court noted he was a confident child and did not know who his natural father was or if he ever stayed with him.

The child also said he was not willing to meet his father as he is loved by his mother and her relatives and he wants to live with them. Considering the submissions of both the parties, the court said, "It would be very difficult for the minor child to leave the company of his mother and to join the petitioner's family where he will have to tackle his step brother/sister and stepmother as well. The transfer of custody would amount to sending the child to an alien environment which he has not seen throughout his upbringing."

While noting the evidence that the minor's mother is "taking care of his health, education, intellectual development and favourable surroundings," the court rejected the man's plea for child's custody, while granting him the right to visit him during the summer and winter vacations.

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