When unwed parents battle for their child
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The battle for the custody of a child born from a live-in relationship has highlighted an unprecedented legal dilemma facing the couple.
The live-in couple, now estranged, have a three-year-old daughter whose custody they are fighting for in the Bombay High Court. The father has been granted interim custody but the case will proceed, now in the district court in Thane.
Each parent has indulged in mudslinging against the other. The man has claimed that the child's mother is a bar dancer and lives a life of "debauchery and immorality" that he did not wish for his daughter, while the woman filed a kidnapping complaint against the man, denied his allegations and said he had concealed his first marriage and had maintained a "walk-in-and-walk-out relationship" with her only to satisfy his lust.
Legal experts say it is the welfare of the child that will be paramount in the eyes of the law. While there are laws that may aid either of them to strengthen his or her case, the court will test the ability of each parent to look after the child.
The battle comes at an age when live-in relationships are no longer frowned upon, but when society might not be ready yet for the children of such couples after such an estrangement, legal experts say.
"Marriage is no longer an institution. The increasing divorce rate is indicative of that. Couples married as recently as three months earlier are going in for divorce," said leading family court lawyer Mridula Kadam. She said this has led to more and more people opting for live-in relationships.
"A child born from the union of a man and a woman, in my eyes, would be legitimate. But in the eyes of the law, a child is legitimate only when it is born within wedlock," said lawyer Kranti Sathe.
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