Mother’s Day: Why can’t I meet my children?

Published: May 11, 2014
SHARES
Email

Non-custodial parents are not offenders or criminals. If going to court for justice as law abiding citizens when all else fails is a crime, then we pray for some leniency, Your Lordship.

They won’t let me see my kids. Failing at marriage is an excruciating affair, but not a punishable crime. So why do we witness so many families suffering endlessly when there are four guardian courts working in Lahore alone?

Is it the workload, absence of supporting law or mere lack of implementation that keeps a child from meeting one of the parents?

None of the people I meet understand why I cannot see my kids. Even a sick-minded killer, an abuser or an addict has a right to meet his children under supervision. The law governing custody issues does need amendments, but it’s the interpretation and practice of that law that is truly senseless.

I, as a standard custody litigant, approached the court to complain that I was denied access to my children by my former husband. The respected judge, seeing the children as no different from lifeless objects, ordered that the possessing party may keep them for the time being.

The speedy disposal of cases brought me down to this court, which is supposedly considered the “guardian” of children. However, for the past five years, my visits have been denied repeatedly under my ex’s ‘interim’ custody and the court doesn’t seem to mind that at all. The ratio of my actual contact with my biological children is, till today, roughly 0.5% of the total time.

After missing out the 99.5% time of my 11 years away from my daughter and son, what bothers me more than the custody itself is the whole idea of the mala fide visitation sentence (MVS). Please help me understand how being raised by one parent is a ‘welfare to the minor’ when the other parent is dying to meet the child? Why is this idea being shoved down our throats?

The standard MVS for a non-custodial parent and child is two hours a month, though this varies from case to case. Violation of the MVS from the non-custodial side may be considered a grave offense; however, if the custodial parent does the same, he/she just gets a hard slap on the wrist.

When you meet your child after a month, you want to live those two hours with them to the fullest. However, during that short time, while you are having a one-sided conversation with the estranged child, you are torn between what human instinct directs you to do against what the judge has dictated. It kills you to watch the child suffer and you seriously consider not seeing them again to end their misery. That is the precise point the poor brain, failing to handle it all, goes numb. To an onlooker, you look aloof and indifferent to the situation. True; you really see no point in living anymore!

What does meeting your own child after a few months feel like?

Same as the very first time you held them after a long labour. Your hungry senses absorb every detail; shape of the nails, colour of their hair, the way they move or gaze at you, how they bite at their cookie, how soft or warm or textured their skin feels and much more. The visual images cling to your mind till the next meeting takes place.

Like many non-custodians, it happened twice that my meeting with my child was delayed; at times, it would take place after 12000 hours (500 days). And when I do meet my children after so long, they seem like completely different people.

When I met her after a long break, my daughter was so much prettier and taller than the image I had in my head. I was awe struck to see that truly poised young woman who, till our last meeting, used to sit in my lap. Sadly, though, her lip gloss and kajal (eye-liner) made my heart mourn at the loss of the time lapsed.

In those few minutes, from not knowing which grade my son was in to hearing the news that he had scored 14 A’s in his O’ levels, I felt a thousand heavy trucks hitting me one by one. My analogies may be crazy but forgive me; I am a scarred being, trying so hard to act graciously around a freshly-shaven, Axe-smelling young man, my son, who is now a foot taller than me.

Non-custodial parents are not offenders or criminals. If going to court for justice as law abiding citizens when all else fails is a crime, then we pray for some leniency, Your Lordship.

Shazia Mirza

Shazia Mirza

Head of the Ceramics Design Department, NCA, a Fulbright Scholar and a manager of My Foundation,an NGO fighting for the rights of children separated from their non custodial parents.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Malik Abdul Rehman

    Things you could do to lessen the misery
    1.become a teacher at the school they go to
    2.rent a property in proximity of their current residence
    3.stalk them while they go out to play or party or whatever
    4.wait for them to get old enough and meet them outside
    5.add them on your social networking page
    6.increase your swag to a national level and wish them to meet with you

    Things you could do to increase the misery
    1.blog about it on express tribuneRecommend

  • BadCall

    The current custodial system in Pakistan is 100% Effective. The father should be given priority just as much as the mother. After all, each marriage case is different but in most cases it is the father who will be able to provide sufficiently for the children.

    We do not want to follow the UK in changing laws which will later provoke male pressure groups into protests against a fundamental human right.
    (i.e. (Pakistani) Father’s 4 Justice)

    Shazia Mirza has written a biased report as she herself is part of the NGO – My Foundation – which has a very narrow view of this topic. Bad Call Tribune…Recommend

  • Guest

    In law… family jurisdiction is a special jurisdiction and courts act as locus parentis .. but in practise these courts act totally against their assigned role of loco parentis … rather Courts let the procedure be used as a tool to convict a Non Custodial Parent.. which ofcourse results
    in Child Abuse as well as against the mandate of Constitutional safeguards envisaged under the fundamental rights and also falls within the ambit of double jeopardyRecommend

  • Alan Faqeer

    I have personally seen more women divorcing their husbands and ditching their families to avail a Fulbright scholarship to attend Ivy league colleges in USA than i can count on my fingers.Recommend

  • NaughtyCaller

    Ma’am with all due respect, your kids turned out fine. You have not mentioned one word of appreciation about the effort that your Ex-Husband or his family put in, during all this time

    While I cannot imagine the pain or heartache you must have gone through while being apart from them, are you not happy the way they turned out?

    God forbid it was also possible that while you got the visitation but the kids would be so unbalanced mentally they could not have achieved anything in life

    The judges that you mentioned so casually also do this (deciding on these cases) day in and day out. They must have some merits at the time of deciding the case

    Your pain will be unbearable for you but seeing the kids succeed should be some consolationRecommend

  • https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8559594100366660134#allposts Supriya Arcot

    The worse thing to happen is not being able to meet your own children . There cannot be a bigger torture . Please give me access to your spouse , I will try to convince him to allow you to meet your kids each time you want . Being a mum myself I can empathise with you . Life is too short for all these grudges. I think you are a brave girl , trying to get on with your life , otherwise. Keep it up gal.Recommend

  • http://www.qaslaw.com Fahad Ahmad Siddiqi

    family matters are not to be decided strictly on the yardstick of procedural laws nor any other principle aimed at the observance of technicalities, Paramount consideration before the court must be the welfare of the minor and betterment of the minor , Courts in such a matter are required to act in a Loco Parentis position and large many considerations are required to be kept into consideration by the guardian Court.
    whereas in practice the minor is being held an hostage and a tool to abuse the non-custodial parent.
    as a lawyer i have observed time and again that the separated / divorced couples after many years of litigation, forget the actual reasons of separation and start fighting on the visitation rights of children. Had the court not supported the element of revenge through children, things would have start cooling down between the parties with the passage of time.
    a very well compounded article it is Ms. Shazia Mirza!
    i am with you to seek some leniency from His Lordships!!
    Non-custodial parents are not offenders or criminals. If going to court for justice as law abiding citizens when all else fails is a crime, then we pray for some leniency, Your Lordship.Recommend

  • NaughtyCaller

    Ma’am first of all I am really sorry for the pain that you feel. Although I cannot imagine it, but I cannot help but feel a lot of sadness and sympathy

    While I understand that you are in pain when you write this blog, I was happy to read that your kids turned out quite fine. I was surprised to see no mention of the efforts by your Ex-husband (and his family) in raising the kids who seemed to have done a great job.

    The Judges which have decided the case do this for a living and follow a detailed documented and referenced Case Law and they had the experience of number of years (not one single instance). The impact that you feel due to this joint custody is only one aide of the story. The impact on the kids of beyond expression. Welfare to the Minor is currently the best form principal in deciding custody (based on the guidelines of the Religion). Also because most of the occasions, Fathers, are on the other side of these Judgments. They can (and they do) harass the custodians and guardian. With influence and finance usually on their side, Fathers can abuse the fragile lower judicial staff and law officers.

    Ma’am, you are just on the other side of this decisionRecommend

  • KS

    This is sad. I wonder what happened to make your husband so vindictive and possessive? Recommend

  • Kay

    A couple of tears rolling down my cheeks… but having forgotten to land anywhere…… coz they’re wondering if they were worth anything…. if the so-called JUDGES can’t hear the separated parents crying and moaning over the terrible loss of their children and every good or bad moment associated with them, when the kids needed them, if they cant hear the kids crying inside out, who don’t even have proper words to share…. who would pay heed to just a few tears of merely a “relative” of the kids?? While crying is a normal human behavior, crying via writings is its advance form and a good vent.. Keep crying and keep trying, one day, some day, it would melt the hearts of the authorities in command, we all would be waiting for that good bright day to shine, together.Recommend

  • Shakeel Khan

    To all the ladies and gentlemen who are hard-hearted enough to be posting criticism and judgmental remarks rather than feeling the misery of the above, or any other ladies or gentlemen going through the same misery, with due respect, I need to say a few things….
    If you are leading a perfectly healthy and happy marital life (even if its a wishful imagination you want to retain), you cannot guarantee even a single moment when your spouse may at once start showing infidelity to you, due to any reason beyond your control, starts being indifferent or starts torturing you mentally or physically, unless and until you surrender to the thought that you are a hapless, helpless and worthless creature, with no human rights at all, you would start compromising for you kids, who would grow up in mental torture of ongoing of two ever-quarreling parents, a curse to live in and grow up…If there is compromise, well and good, but sometimes its better to move away for better.. better than staying there forever and making the life a living hell for the kids, where the son grows up watching his dad as a role model, torturing his wife all the time, or a daughter seeing her mom paying no heed to the family, or vice versa, and passing on the learnt behavior to their future spouses… and otherwise ending up disrespecting and hating both their parents… Sometimes its better to leave, to safe the sanity and respect of relationships and to preserve the love that every relationship deserves……. And.. not to forget, its something related to KIDS welfare, which does not demand criticizing the human flaws or mistakes of divorced adults (esp the seperated-from-kids ones who are already in far more pain than without-kids ones), rather its something for the benefit for THE KIDS who actually NEED and LOVE and MISS one or the other of their parents, so please focus on the cause, dont be a JUDGE with insufficient knowledge.. Hope and pray none of you loses a loving and caring spouse and none of your kids ever, its not a good pain to experience.
    Note: I am not suffering from any such pain myself, but at least, I have a HEART to FEEL. ThanksRecommend

  • Zarlasht Rana

    As I understand a blog on a public forum is there to create public awareness about issues. I don’t think the author is miserable, in fact, the author has quite successfully made you aware of an issue, otherwise you wouldn’t be commenting, now would you? :-)Recommend

  • Zarlasht Rana

    Yes… and that’s enough to put them all in one basket. That’s convenient :-)Recommend

  • Pasha

    What happens is that our courts actually empower the custodial parent, whether Father or Mother, with every leniency while take it all away from the non-custodial parents. The balance shifts to the custodial parent’s side entirely; they get to keep the child, they get alimony payments (in case of mother), they get a preferential say in all matters of the child. Whereas on the other hand, the non-custodial parent has to literally beg from court to see his/her child, they have to provide security bonds of hundreds & thousands of rupees just to see their child for a day, they have to pay the Bailiff (court staff) to see their own child, they have to bribe the court staff to get the necessary orders (robkar) issue… and if he is the father, he also has to pay regular alimony even when the mother is also earning.
    So essentially a non-custodial parents is forced void of any rights. This encourages the custodial parent to do as he/she pleases cause they know the law is biased for their benefit and they will not be accountable. So they feel free to be vindictive, possessive, plain refuse to comply with court orders and anything and everything they can easily get away with.Recommend

  • Pasha

    I appreciate your compassion, however all child psychiatric studies indicate the lack of shared parenting overwhelmingly results in psychological imbalance in a child’s life. Here are some of the studies of Children from fatherless or motherless homes:

    – 5 times more likely to commit suicide
    – 32 times more likely to run away from home.
    – 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
    – 14 times more likely to commit rape.
    – 9 times more likely to drop out of high school.
    – 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances (become drug addicts)
    – 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution
    – 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
    – 3 million teenage girls have sexually transmitted diseases
    – At least 1 out of 4 teenagers (between 14years to 19years) suffers from sexually transmitted diseases.

    I agree, the father in this case has raised the children well, but that’s an exception, not a norm.Recommend

  • Pasha

    I appreciate your compassion, however all child psychiatric studies indicate the lack of shared parenting overwhelmingly results in psychological imbalance in a child’s life. Here are some of the studies of Children from fatherless or motherless homes:

    – 5 times more likely to commit suicide
    – 32 times more likely to run away from home.
    – 20 times more likely to have behavioral disorders
    – 14 times more likely to commit rape.
    – 9 times more likely to drop out of high school.
    – 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances (become drug addicts)
    – 9 times more likely to end up in a state-operated institution
    – 20 times more likely to end up in prison.
    – 3 million teenage girls have sexually transmitted diseases
    – At least 1 out of 4 teenagers (between 14years to 19years) suffers from sexually transmitted diseases.

    I agree, the father in this case has raised the children well, but that’s an exception, not a norm.Recommend

  • Pasha

    I can so relate to what you are saying. Suffice to say I found a lot of interesting conversations on my home computer once I installed a ‘Key logger’ that reported all activities of my now ex. on the home computer :-p

    Here’s where the real problem starts. You confront your partner and instead of making amendments, they simply disappear one fine day with your children. Next thing you know, you are getting notices from court. So essentially, the victim becomes further victimized when the courts start siding & sympathizing with the woman and granting her a legal loophole to keep your kids away from you as well.
    So I have two choices, either spend the rest of my life being acutely aware and still keeping my eyes closed to my partner’s ongoing infidelity, or else confront my partner. I chose the later, she took away my only son, the courts and lawyers are simply prolonging the abduction for the past 7 years… However facing all that, I agree with you that instead of bringing my son up in a house plagued with arguments and confrontations, it’s better to give him at least a peaceful existence. As for my son, I carry on making every effort to see him despite all odds. He was 3 1/2 when abducted by his mother, now he’s 10, still with his mother, but thanks to all the efforts I made to see him beyond the 2 hour/month granted by our biased courts, I’ve been able to keep a very close father-son bond with him.Recommend

  • Syed

    I would not sweat.. Some people are just miserable themselves and try to label others as a defence mechanism. Of course the fact the author is doing something “in the field” about it and not just complaining, doesn’t help the pathetic souls.

    Regards;
    SyedRecommend

  • gp65

    so? This woman has not abandoned her kids has she? Why are you stereotyping?

    Also you have not seen any man abandoning his wife and kids and getting married to a much younger woman?Recommend

  • Taimoor

    There is a law of nature. If someone trying to stop meeting your loved-ones today, he has to go through the same in future, hope we all understand this and not undue stop meeting our loved-ones. Humans are very intelligent creatures and specially every new generation lot more than earlier one, they know who are deprived today and when they will be in power, you will get the justice by nature. Having said all that everyone has the right to meet and spend time with her/his children, unfortunately laws in our country are very weak and always favour the powerful. We all support the fair decision and need of justice. Justice delayed is justice denied!!!!

    “”””Non-custodial parents are not offenders or criminals. If going to court for justice as law abiding citizens when all else fails is a crime, then we pray for some leniency, Your Lordship.”””””Recommend

  • NaughtyCaller

    Dear Sir, Your comments are very detailed and it is very hard to argue with them. I agree that broken homes leave the kids vulnerable to psychological issues. Majority of them are applicable, but not all of these Issues, are applicable to Pakistan

    Coming back to my original comment and the blog itself, the place to meet in case of joint custody is the premises of court (lower judiciary)

    I would request you to kindly visit personally any of the lower courts to find out the environment, with all types of accused, aggrieved, witnesses (some of them paid / professional), lawyers seeking clients. Not to forget the appalling law and order in the Courts

    That is the last place a sane person would like to meet his / her kids. Think of the impact this would leave on the kids. The two hour timeslot is usually spent in this environment would most definitely cause more harm to kids than benefitRecommend

  • Pasha

    Mohtarram, very politely & with no offence, you are mistaking the current precedence being followed by our courts as ‘Joint Custody’.
    Joint Custody is a term we use when both parents get a reasonably equal time with their children. However, what our courts practice and what the writer of this article is suffering from is ‘Sole Custody’. This sole custody law was made by the British in 1890 and both India, Pakistan and later on, Bangladesh, inherited it. India & Bangladesh however have been efficient enough to follow the rest of the civilized world and change their laws from sole custody to joint custody. Pakistan as usual is still following the 124 year old sole custody law.
    I hope that clears your misconception about Joint & sole custody.
    I totally agree with all the rest that you are saying except for the following part:

    “God forbid it was also possible that while you got the visitation but the kids would be so unbalanced mentally they could not have achieved anything in life”

    This is why I presented psychological statistics. A child from a broken home in fact needs both his parents even more because he’s already suffering the trauma of their separation. Our courts on the other hand totally isolate him from one parent by granting custody to the other (Sole Custody), which I feel is not only shameful but a violation of basic human rights of both the parent and the child.
    As for personally visiting lower courts, I’ve spent two years visiting my son in those pathetic visiting areas, and yes for those two miserable hours every month. For the past 7 years, I’m at that awful place at least once a week for the sake of my son while these judges and lawyers deal with our children as if they weren’t human but a piece of property. So trust me, I know more reality of these lower courts than anyone would care to listen :-)Recommend

  • Pasha

    May be you’ll like to enlighten us all about your practical experience with Guardian Courts that you found 100% effective, because I seriously doubt you’ve ever been to a Guardian court yourself.
    And would you mind telling us the aims and objectives of My Foundation, just so we know your claim about ‘My Foundation’ is based on some insight. Again, I’m pretty sure you are clueless about what My Foundation has set out to achieve, and what it has already achieved.
    Tough mate, people are a lot more educated and discerning to believe unsubstantiated claims like the ones you are making :-)Recommend

  • http://www.qaslaw.com Fahad Ahmad Siddiqi

    As far as the meeting of minor is concerned and the meeting areas within the Court premises, it is worthy to be observed here that it is on the initiative of “My Foundation” which could be visited at http://myfoundation.asia/, A Division Bench of the Honourable Lahore, presided by the Honourable Chief Justice, has directed all the District & Sessions Judges throughout the 8 Divisional Headquarters of Punjab, on the Administrative Side, to shift them to the Children Complexes within their divisional headquarters. in order to provide a congenial and homely environment to the children!Recommend

  • NaughtyCaller

    Sir I am really sorry to hear about your personal experience. May ALLAH ALMIGHTY bless you with courage to withstand this situation and may your children become the pleasure of your eyesRecommend

  • Pasha

    Appreciate your words of compassion. I’m fortunate that my efforts to see my son, against all limitations imposed by Guardian Courts, have paid off. My son has grown more confident, understands his and my circumstances better and loves me like hell.
    He’s a living testimony that a child from a broken home is much better off psychologically having a reasonable contact with both parents. In contrast, what the courts here are doing is criminal negligence of the welfare of thousands of children.Recommend