The Father was standing outside his estranged wife’s house, with his hands full of toys, gifts and a box with cake for his daughter who would turn nine years old today. He rings the bell, the door is opened by his wife who gives him a sarcastic and dirty look, takes the gifts and the cake box and asks him to leave immediately. The Father wants to meet and spend some time with his daughter and wish her personally. She says she is still sleeping and shuts the door on his face. The Father stumbles to his car, sits inside and cries his heart out. This has been happening year after year as the divorce proceedings started and get prolonged due to her non-cooperation. At least she did not throw away the gifts in front of him like she did two years ago.
Take another story. The court ordered visitation rights on a weekly basis to the Father after the divorce was through. The Mother refuses to allow him to see the girl child on some new pretext on every occasion and keeps him deprived. He has knocked the doors of the court several times and the court favour his appeal but it falls on deaf ears. She disregards the court orders as much. The Mother is unrelenting. The Father has not seen his little girl for a good ten months and cries his heart out to meet her. ‘I will lose my girl he mourns’.
A mother is a divine gift of God you would agree- she not only gives birth but also nurtures the child with love and sacrifice. She gives up her pleasures for the welfare of the children and willing does it as it comes from her bosom. But she has another face too- that of meanness, abuse, cruelty and evil towards the same child whom she has given birth to. It is not unbelievable but a happening reality in many cases of divorce where the conflict between couples has peaked. Whether the divorce proceedings are on or completed, the story remains the same in a growing number of cases. As the Family Court gets flooded with cases of separation/divorce due to marital discord, we also witness a growing number of fathers losing their dear children and hence undergoing an emotional trauma of loss of love and fatherhood.
Society feels that a child in a divorce battle is safest with the natural mother who will take good care of the child. So in most cases the custody of a minor child is granted to the mother even though she may not be the best of characters. We have heard of mothers hitting their children if found secretly talking to their father. We have seen mothers feeding horrendous stories about their husbands to their children in the intention of poisoning the tender minds of the children against their father. Is this not a criminal act and an act of cruelty? Under no conditions can such behaviour of mothers be justified. Such cruel behaviour goes against the welfare and mental well-being of the child. The children are the worst sufferers of divorce if the separation is not handled with decency, civility and emotional maturity. The children get scarred emotionally that affect their long time personality. Agreed that it requires strength and wisdom on the part of warring couples to keep their personal traumas to themselves and not drag the children into the battle.
Whatever may be the nature of discord between spouses- it could be incompatibility, infidelity, violence, neglect and abuse or whatever, the issue is a different one. The wife in question may be a harassed and exploited one by the husband in so many ways but in no way can her behaviour of vindictiveness carried through the child be justified and supported. Most wives would use the children as a pawn in the entire scene as a means to get even with the husband by depriving him emotionally of meeting the child. If she has faced cruelty by him, she gets revengeful by being equally cruel to him. This argument and logic, appeals to most married women who suffer under their husbands and feel that ‘he deserves this’. What they get blinded to is the fact that they are being equally cruel to their own children and harming them. The question that needs to be asked is ‘does your child deserve this’, or ‘how do you justify the cruelty and deprivation meted out to your own child that affects its emotional development and well-being’?
Here such mothers’ takes the shape and face of cruelty and evil. She becomes a demon destroying the fabric of social and cultural decency and stooping to devilish levels to sort out her own unresolved emotional wounds. While aggrieved women should heal their own wounds and their own lives, they should also think beyond their own selfish interest. The husband may be a ‘horrible’ husband but at the same time he can be a ‘loving and caring’ father. The wife in such cases can be an ‘aggrieved’ wife but she is behaving as a ‘terrible and evil’ mother in such a situation. She loses her sense of balance, decency, civility, humanity, taking the law into her own hands.
The ‘Parent Plan’ approved by the Honourable Bombay High Court and Honourable High Court of Himachal Pradesh, acts as a base document for the ‘Child Access and Custody Guidelines’ circulated by the courts. Paragraph 21 of the Guidelines suggests the ‘Shift of Custody: For reasons of child alienation/tutoring/mind poisoning/brainwashing/parental alienation syndrome’. This should be used against mothers/primary custodians who indulge in such malpractices of harming the child. The deprived fathers should collect evidences of the denial of communication and visitation rights by their ex-wives and request for a shift in custody.
Custody of the child does not mean ‘detention, imprisonment, incarceration and captivity’ of the child- it, in fact, means ‘protective care, responsible guardianship, care and protection’ of the child. If the primary custodian, whether it is the mother (most cases it is) or the father, behaves in an immature, irresponsible, cruel, crazy and psychotic manner, the child is in danger of losing the primary bond with their other parent.
The primary purpose of the ‘Parent Plan’ is to encourage daily communication and many visits during the week, to allow for continuous emotional attachment of the child with both the parents and to have a healthy respect and love for both the parents who have given birth to the child. The well-being of the warring adults is secondary for they are adults and can take care of themselves independently. The child is the primary cause for concern here.