Modification of Visitation Schedule to Facilitate Minors Affected by Custody Litigation

Matters pertaining to the separation of parents, such as custody and visitation, should ideally prioritize the welfare of the minor child. Unfortunately, our judicial system overlooks the welfare of minor children by restricting non-custodial parents from having access to them or having a say in the visitation schedules that regulate their lives. This can cause children to feel defenseless.

Most separations today – whether between spouses or between a child and a parent – include a schedule directing how much access non-custodial parents can have to their children on a monthly basis. Our family courts still find it hard to devise an effective mechanism to allow the ward to interact with his or her parents through an interim visitation schedule during the early stages of child custody litigation. As a bare minimum, the family court often awards access to a minor child for merely two hours and that too within court premises only, once or twice a month. Accordingly, the legal arrangement ordinarily reached administers the day-to-day cadence and schedule of meeting the kids without change until the lis gets decided by the court after 2-3 years of prolonged custody litigation.

A visitation schedule that addresses the needs of an infant may also not be ideal for an elder child. Furthermore, it is unlikely that a small child will demand an adjustment in visitation schedule, or that his or her demand will actually be taken into account since it would mean having to change a longstanding course of action. Confronted with such issues, children in separated families, every now and then, wind up stifling their own needs and choices to avoid any unpleasantness with their parents or having to choose between clashing loyalties. This goes against their wellbeing or welfare and may even actuate a line of provocative and harming practices.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) expresses that children reserve the privilege of significant support in the choices that influence them. Grownups, with some misguided notion of protection, regularly try to hold minors back from having a say in guardianship matters when it could be vital for their development, prosperity and welfare. Once children have reached the age of reason — by and large consented to be around 7 — they ought to be perceived as definitive experts on their own lives. No one likes to be told what is beneficial for them or what they ought to do, yet we subject minor children to this when we bring in other experts to assess their lives over a period of days or weeks as a requirement of the visitation arrangement rather than simply listening to them.

To remedy this, all parenting/visitation plans should be subjected to mandatory, binding review and modification every two years after being chalked out. The modification ought to incorporate a private/confidential conversation between minors and an intercession prepared by the family court. The discussion could be recorded to guarantee that the minor child was not compelled to respond in a certain way or posed with leading questions and enquiries. They ought not to be compelled to state their inclinations but should still be welcomed if they decide to share. It is quite possible that many children may not be willing to do this as they may be hesitant to hurt their parents, yet they should be encouraged to advocate for themselves periodically too. And when they do so, their wishes, including those regarding visitation schedules, ought to be respected as expressed, not as deciphered by a specialist or attorney (reliance can be placed on the case titled 2019 MLD 804 Karachi).

The family court should meet with all relatives, independently and collectively, to guarantee that a minor’s desires will be duly regarded in the two-year visitation schedule that will follow. Some people fear that this suggestion may lead to children being controlled by their custodial parents. However, in my 19 years of practice and experience as a family and child custody advocate, I have seen otherwise. Of course, even after listening to children, the success of custody plans must still be properly evaluated. An assessment of visitation schedules may include how the children function at home and at school and how they maintain age-appropriate peer relationships. If, following a modified custody plan for two years, a minor child is struggling in two of the three areas, then it is time to consider whether a different plan may be needed.

It is submitted that both parents can have equal access to minor children in custody cases. In 1970, the no-fault divorce made its first appearance in the United States (in California), highlighting that both parents had an equal right to have access to their children. Forty years later, in 2010, New York became the last state to adopt the no-fault divorce. Will it take another 40 years for children to be heard and have their rights routinely ignored?


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CourtingTheLaw.com or any organization with which he might be associated.

Fahad Ahmad Siddiqi

Author: Fahad Ahmad Siddiqi

The writer is an advocate practising at the Lahore High Court and specializing in child custody and family jurisprudence. He can be reached at 03008411403.

20 comments

Very nice article. With a paradigm shift in our societal norms, it’s imperative now to have our family laws amended too. First things that must b considered is defining the “welfare of the minor”. Even if it is accepted that welfare of the minor lies in being with the mother (which itself is still debatable) it is important to emphasize that “welfare of the minor” does not lie in being away from the father. Almost all the child psychology experts agree that it’s best for the child if he/she gets both parents. The biggest setback of parental alienation (which happens almost in every case in our family courts) is that the alienating parent tells the child that he/she was abandoned by the other parent. Consequently, the kid grows with a feeling of being rejected. It is therefore imperative to have shared parenting laws introduced, to minimize the effect of broken family on the kid.

A well written article. The only victim of such irrational orders is the one for the welfare of whom such orders are issued.

Urdu
English
ماہر نفسیات کی راۓ لئے بنا عدالت یہ کیسے جان سکتی ہے کہ صرف دو گھنٹے کی ملاقات بچے کی ذہنی آسودگی ہو بھی رہی ہے یا نہیں.
بڑھتی عمر کے ساتھ بچے کو غیر حضانت شدہ والد/والدہ کی کمی شدت سے محسوس ہوتی ہے. اور کورٹس کا ماحول ان بچوں کی ذہنی افزائش پہ ناقص اثر ڈالتا ہے.
اسلئے والدین کی برابری سے ان بچوں سے ملاقات وقت کی اہم ضرورت ہے. اور اس حوالے سے واضع قانون سازی کی اشد ضرورت ہے

How can a court know for a psychiatrist’s opinion whether a two-hour meeting is a child’s peace of mind?
As a child gets older, he or she may feel the need for an unaccompanied parent. And the court environment has a detrimental effect on the mental development of these children.
Therefore, it is important for parents to have time to meet their children equally. And there is an urgent need for clear legislation in this regard

I support shared parenting rights. Honourable guardian judges are responsible for making distences between non custodian parents and innocent children which is cruelty and injustice.

You are doing great dear.Your contribution to society is phenomenal. I hope our honorable courts are going to change with their decisions according to new parental issues

A wonderful article and I agree with Advocate Fahad Siddiqi. Indeed child welfare is paramount, but it is mostly ignored. The balance of child welfare is missing from the judicial considerations. It should be noted, highlighted and acted upon.

Great effort a marvelous change in the bogus historic period of this subject, you are a ray of hope not only for non custodian parents but also for youth, minors or i must say new generation.

Excellent content and social awareness for shared parenting concepts that is mandatory in today’s era of selfishness and greediness. Today’s litigation matters involved negative and misuse of child brain against other parent which is in long run never be progressive and growing mind of children. I hope the content well understood by the key decision makers involving Judges, Law makers and pressure groups.
Besides all these, awareness must also be given to the Lawyers who cunningly refrain other parents for home visitation and opposed. If lawyers of both sides atleast cooperate in this shared parenting then Judges will not go against this. That will be the Win Win Situation for child welfare.

There are very few in our society who they are sensitive enough to think about and feel about the matter the way a non costudial parent thinks and feels.we must appreciate mr Fahad Ahmad for his constant efforts for a balance society,for better future of our children.

ماشاءاللہ
بہت عمدہ
اللّٰہ تعالٰی آپ کی ان کوششوں کو قبول فرمائے۔کاش کہ معاشرے میں پڑھا لکھا سمجھا جانے والا طبقہ اس چیز کا احساس کرے کہ ننھے معصوم ذہنوں کے لئے جہاں ماں کی ممتا اہم ہے وہاں باپ کی شفقت کی کیا اہمیت ہے کاش۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔ہائے کاش

Very well written. It’s so unfortunate that the judiciary doesn’t pay attention to these matters which are crucial and have a huge aftereffect in society as these minors will eventually become part of it.

Great effort a marvelous change you are a ray of hope not only for non custodian parents but also for youth, minors

MashaAllah with your expertise regarding this specific field you are doing marvelous job. May Allah paak enable you to achieve your goals. You are not only rendering tremendous services but also inspiring people in a great way. Prayers and honor..

Sir, your efforts will bring fruit. You are doing great job.Your contribution in this regard is highly appreciated. I hope that these hurdles between non custodial parents and innocent children will be removed due to your hard efforts in every court of Pakistan.

Sir apko Dil sy sulute h Jo apny aur apki team ny berha othaya Howa h ALLAAH paak esmei apko qamyab dein aur Alla adliya sy es plate-form k zariye request h k Walid ko Sirf ATM ki machine na banaya jaein Pakistani court mei

A very well written article regarding visitation and shared parenting .It is high time we get.rid of the old bogus system of visitation of the minor in the court which is psychological trauma for the minor

Great contribution sir….always find new hope in the way of survival for non- custodial parents…..

You are the best…. being non custodial parents Sir it gave us a hope that our children will visit to their home with no fear….one day…😭

Shared parenting or co parenting offers families the benefits of both parents building relationships with their kids, encouraging healthy child development, and creating a platform for parents to collaborate efforts for their child’s well-being.

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