Sunday 17 December 2023

Shared Parenting and Parental Alienation Syndrome in Indian Law: A Balancing Act

 In the wake of rising divorce rates and evolving family structures, Indian law is grappling with how to ensure the best interests of children in post-separation scenarios. Two key concepts – shared parenting and parental alienation syndrome (PAS) – have emerged as important considerations in custody battles and child visitation arrangements.

1. Shared Parenting:

While Indian law doesn't explicitly mandate shared parenting, the Guardians and Wards Act, 1890, emphasizes the paramount importance of the child's welfare. Courts increasingly recognize the benefits of shared parenting arrangements, where both parents maintain significant involvement in the child's upbringing. This can involve:

  • Equal or near-equal time spent with each parent.
  • Joint decision-making on major aspects of the child's life, such as education and healthcare.
  • Open communication and cooperation between parents, prioritizing the child's well-being.

Benefits of Shared Parenting:

  • Reduces conflict and promotes stability for the child.
  • Provides the child with the emotional and developmental benefits of close relationships with both parents.
  • Supports healthy emotional adjustment post-separation.


  • Limited legal framework: The lack of a specific law on shared parenting makes its implementation less consistent and dependent on individual judge's discretion.
  • High-conflict situations: Shared parenting might not be suitable in cases of parental neglect, abuse, or significant acrimony between parents.

2. Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS):

PAS is a controversial concept, not formally recognized as a mental disorder in India or internationally. However, it is sometimes invoked in custody disputes where one parent alleges that the other is manipulating the child to reject or demonize them.

Characteristics of PAS:

  • Campaign of denigration: One parent systematically undermines the other, portraying them negatively to the child.
  • Unfounded rationalization: The child offers implausible reasons for their hostility towards the alienated parent.
  • Dichotomy of parents: The child views one parent as "good" and the other as "bad," with little room for nuance.
  • Borrowed scenarios: The child uses phrases or language beyond their age or understanding, suggesting coaching by the alienating parent.

Challenges of PAS:

  • Lack of scientific consensus: The validity of PAS as a clinical diagnosis is contested, raising concerns about its misuse in court proceedings.
  • Potential for bias: Accusations of PAS can be used to discredit a parent unfairly, especially in high-conflict situations.

Indian Law and PAS:

While not formally recognized, courts may consider PAS-like behavior as a factor in custody decisions, emphasizing the child's best interests and protecting them from emotional harm.

Balancing Act:

Indian law navigates a complex terrain where shared parenting aspirations intersect with concerns about PAS. Judges face the critical task of:

  • Prioritizing the child's welfare: Ensuring arrangements best meet the child's physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
  • :Evaluating evidence objectively Assessing claims of PAS critically, avoiding bias and upholding due process.
  • Promoting cooperation and co-parenting: Encouraging constructive communication and a focus on the child's well-being over parental conflict.


Shared parenting and PAS present both opportunities and challenges for Indian law. Carefully weighing their implications within the child's best interest principle is crucial to ensure fair and just outcomes in post-separation scenarios. As legal frameworks evolve and social understanding deepens, finding the right balance between shared parenting aspirations and protection from detrimental parental influence will remain a crucial focus in protecting children during family transitions.

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