Children in a degenerating marriage
When a marriage is not working for one reason or another, it reaches a stage when it is said to have irretrievably broken down. The otherwise smiling and happy couple changes. Hatred, hostility and desperation and the spirit of revenge takes the space that was once occupied by love. It is very unfortunate that more often than not the biggest casualties and victims of such circumstances are usually the innocent children.
The Children’s Act which deals with the Safeguards for the Rights and Welfare of the Child provides that every child shall have an inherent right to life and it shall be the responsibility of the Government and the family to ensure the survival and development of the child under Section 4 (1).The parents cannot discharge this responsibility, in a hostile environment. The parents can only ensure that the children develop if they spend time with them and give them the correct parental guidance in matters like religious, academic and other areas.
More often than not the spouses become so emotional that they even call each other names in front of their own children. They do not care about the negative impact this may have on their children. Spouses must avoid making open statements that may make the child feel like it is the cause of the mess. A child can suffer from parental alienation syndrome, if they are constantly hearing negative comments about a parent.
When the parents are not happy then they tend to pay more attention to their own personal emotional needs at the expense of the children. This can become very dire to the extent where some parents turn into drunkards and forget their children and their needs. Children in such cases end up being neglected and even abandoned to fend for themselves. Their grades in school fall, their behaviour fluctuates and they no longer have self-confidence. Such children become very vulnerable to crime. If action is not taken promptly then such children end up taking drugs, get trapped in early marriages, get into early premature sex and some become very withdrawn.
These are children in need of care and protection. This is where the obligation and duty of government or the state meets the responsibility of the family over the children. Such parents can be prosecuted for child neglect under the Children Act. Under Section of the Children Act, the court can take up such children and declare them as children in need of care and protection and take them away from the parents.
The children who end up in crime end up being taken to borstal institutions. When dealing with such children, the court is guided by Section 4(3) of the Children Act which stipulates that, all judicial and administrative institutions, and all persons acting in the name of these institutions, where they are exercising any powers conferred by this Act shall treat the interests of the child as the first and paramount consideration to the extent that this is consistent with adopting a course of action calculated to -
(a) safeguard and promote the rights and welfare of the child;
(b) conserve and promote the welfare of the child;
(c) secure for the child such guidance and correction as is necessary for the welfare of the child and in the public interest.
Let us always remember that the best interest of the child comes first even when things are not working well in the marriage.