Custody orders cannot be made rigid and can be changed at any time, taking into account the needs and well-being of the child at different stages of life, the Bombay High Court said.
The Supreme Court ordered the Family Court to reconsider the application of a man who wanted to be appointed legal guardian of his minor son after his ex-wife remarried.
A single judge Neela Gokhale noted in the May 4 order that child custody issues are sensitive issues that require an appreciation and consideration of the type of care and affection a child needs in the growing stages of life.
The order was issued in a petition filed by the 40-year-old man, who was challenging a family court order denying his application under Hindu Marriage Law, to seek an amendment to a previous order allowing both parents the shared custody of the minor boy was awarded.
According to the man, in the consent terms filed in the divorce filing in 2017, he and his former wife had agreed that if either of them remarried, the other would receive full custody of the child.
The family court had denied the man’s application on the grounds that he should have made the same application under the provisions of the Guardians and Wards Act and not under the Hindu Marriage Act.
The man in his pleading said he was only seeking a change in the consent terms filed in the divorce case.
The Supreme Court overturned the family court’s order and ordered it to reconsider the man’s motion to change the consent terms of custody of the minor child.
Judge Gokhale noted in the order that the family court’s view was “way too hypertechnical”.
The Supreme Court said while the family court was right to rule that the father should have made a Guardians and Wards Act application to seek his appointment as the child’s legal guardian, but a Hindu Marriage Act application was required by the seeker Father was also a modification of the previous order is “completely tenable”.
“Child custody matters are sensitive matters that require an appreciation and consideration of the type of care and affection a child needs during the growing stages of his or her life,” the Supreme Court said.
It added that for this reason detention orders are always considered interim orders and cannot be made rigid and final.
“They can be modified and shaped taking into account the needs of the child at different stages of life, including the circumstances of the parents as they relate to the best interests of the child,” the court said in its order.