Child Custody Law in India

Child custody is a term used in family law courts to define legal guardianship of a child under the age of 18. During divorce or marriage annulment proceedings, the issue of child custody often becomes a matter for the court to determine. In most cases, both parents continue to share legal child custody but one parent gains physical child custody. Family law courts generally base decisions on the best interests of the child or children, not always on the best arguments of each parent.

In general, courts tend to award PHYSICAL child custody to the parent who demonstrates the most financial security, adequate parenting skills and the least disruption for the child. Both parents continue to share legal child custody until the minor has reached the age of 18 or becomes legally emancipated. Legal custody means that either parent can make decisions which affect the welfare of the child, such as medical treatments, religious practices and insurance claims. Physical child custody means that one parent is held primarily responsible for the child’s housing, educational needs and food. In most cases, the non-custodial parent still has visitation rights. Many of the religions practicing in India have their own personal laws and they have their different notion of custody.


Hindu Minority and Guardianship Act 1956 (HMGA)
Guardians and Wards Act 1890 (GWA).

Joint Physical Custody: A new concept that has evolved while negotiating divorce settlements. Both parents will have legal custody, but one will have the physical custody (child resides with him or her) and will be the child’s primary caretaker.


Sole Custody: One parent has been proven to be an abusive and unfit parent and the other parent is granted custody.


The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890 is the universal law pertaining to issues involving child custody and guardianship in India, regardless of the child’s religion. However, under secular principles, India also sanctions laws pertaining to different religions.

P & V Legal Service Firm in Delhi, India