In the event of a matrimonial dispute or separation, the well-being and best interests of the children involved become paramount considerations. The Hindu Marriage Act of 1955 provides a legal framework to address crucial matters such as child custody and visitation rights, ensuring that the child’s emotional and developmental needs are prioritized.

Visitation rights, also known as access rights, refer to the non-custodial parent’s right to spend time with their child or children. The Hindu Marriage Act recognizes the importance of maintaining a healthy relationship between the child and both parents, even after separation or divorce. Section 26 of the Act empowers the court to make orders regarding visitation rights, considering various factors, such as the child’s age, the relationship between the child and each parent, and any history of domestic violence or abuse.

Section 26 of the Hindu Marriage Act (HMA):-  provides a legal framework for addressing visitation rights, also known as access rights, for the non-custodial parent. Here’s a brief explanation of how this section deals with visitation rights:

1. Court’s power to grant visitation rights: Section 26 of the HMA empowers the court to make appropriate orders regarding the custody, maintenance, and education of minor children, which includes granting visitation rights to the non-custodial parent.

2. Factors considered: While determining visitation rights, the court takes into account various factors, such as:

   a) The age and overall well-being of the child

   b) The relationship between the child and each parent

   c) Any history of domestic violence or abuse

   d) The child’s wishes, if they are of a suitable age to express a preference

   e) The parents’ ability to cooperate and ensure a healthy environment for the child

3. Balancing the child’s best interests: The primary consideration for the court is the child’s welfare and best interests. Visitation rights are granted to the non-custodial parent to ensure that the child maintains a healthy relationship with both parents, but these rights may be restricted or subject to conditions if the child’s well-being is at risk.

4. Flexible arrangements: The court has the discretion to grant visitation rights in various forms, such as regular visits, overnight stays, holidays, or any other arrangement that is deemed suitable for the child’s overall development and the specific circumstances of the case.

5. Modification of orders: Section 26 also allows the court to modify or revoke its orders regarding visitation rights if there is a significant change in circumstances or if it is deemed necessary for the child’s best interests.


The concept of visitation rights under the Hindu Marriage Act and other personal laws is not limited solely to the non-custodial parent. In certain situations, other family members may also be granted visitation rights to maintain a healthy relationship with the child. Here are some of the members who can have visitation rights:

1. Non-custodial parent: The primary beneficiary of visitation rights is the non-custodial parent, who is typically the parent without primary physical custody of the child. This right ensures that the child maintains a meaningful bond with both parents despite the separation or divorce.

2. Grandparents: In many cases, courts have recognized the importance of a child’s relationship with their grandparents. Grandparents may be granted visitation rights, subject to the court’s discretion and the child’s best interests, as established in the landmark case of Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India (1995).

3. Step-parents: In situations where a parent has remarried, the step-parent may also be considered for visitation rights if they have developed a strong bond with the child and their presence is deemed beneficial for the child’s well-being.

4. Siblings: If the child has siblings from the same parents or step-siblings from a parent’s remarriage, the court may grant visitation rights to maintain the sibling relationship, provided it is in the child’s best interests.

5. Other relatives: In certain exceptional circumstances, the court may also consider granting visitation rights to other relatives, such as aunts, uncles, or cousins, if they have played a significant role in the child’s upbringing and their presence is deemed essential for the child’s emotional and psychological development.

It is important to note that the decision to grant visitation rights to any party other than the non-custodial parent is subject to the court’s discretion and a thorough evaluation of the specific circumstances of the case. The court’s primary consideration remains the child’s welfare and overall well-being.

Additionally, the court may impose reasonable restrictions or conditions on visitation rights, such as supervised visits or specific time limits, to ensure the child’s safety and to facilitate a healthy environment for their growth and development.

It’s important to note that while Section 26 of the HMA provides the legal framework for granting visitation rights, the court’s decision is based on a holistic assessment of the specific case details and the child’s overall well-being. The court may also seek the assistance of welfare experts, child psychologists, or other professionals to ensure that the visitation arrangements are suitable and, in the child’s, best interests.

One of the landmark cases that have shaped the interpretation of visitation rights under the Hindu Marriage Act is Purushotham Krishnappa Gowda vs. K. Jayamma (1991). In this case, the Supreme Court held that the non-custodial parent’s visitation rights should not be curtailed unless there are compelling reasons to do so, such as the child’s welfare or safety being at risk. The court emphasized that a child’s need for love, care, and affection from both parents must be balanced with the child’s overall well-being.

Another significant case is Gaurav Nagpal vs. Sumedha Nagpal (2009), where the Supreme Court stressed the importance of ensuring that visitation rights are exercised in a congenial atmosphere. The court directed the custodial parent to provide a conducive environment for the child to interact with the non-custodial parent during visitation periods.

In the case of Sarla Mudgal vs. Union of India (1995), the Supreme Court recognized the rights of grandparents to visit their grandchildren, subject to the court’s discretion and the best interests of the child. This ruling acknowledged the valuable role grandparents can play in a child’s life and the importance of maintaining family bonds.

The Hindu Marriage Act also provides for the appointment of a welfare expert or a child psychologist to assist the court in determining the best arrangement for visitation rights. Section 13 of the Act allows the court to seek the expert’s opinion on matters related to the child’s custody, maintenance, and education.

It is important to note that visitation rights are not absolute and can be subject to reasonable restrictions or conditions imposed by the court. For instance, in cases where there is a history of domestic violence or substance abuse, the court may grant supervised visitation rights or impose specific conditions to ensure the child’s safety and well-being.

In addition to visitation rights, the Hindu Marriage Act also addresses related issues, such as the child’s maintenance and the appointment of a guardian ad litem to represent the child’s interests in court proceedings.

While the Hindu Marriage Act provides a legal framework for resolving custody and visitation disputes, it is essential to remember that the court’s primary consideration is the child’s welfare. Parents are encouraged to approach these matters with empathy, understanding, and a willingness to prioritize their child’s emotional and psychological needs.

In the case of Anita Sabherwal vs. Anil Sabherwal (2018), the Delhi High Court emphasized the importance of adhering to visitation schedules and respecting the non-custodial parent’s rights. The court stated that denying visitation rights without valid reasons could amount to contempt of court and attract legal consequences.

Another notable case is Krishnakumar vs. Muthulakshmi (2016), where the Madras High Court stressed the need for custodial parents to facilitate a healthy relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent. The court observed that visitation rights are not merely a privilege for the non-custodial parent but also a right of the child to maintain bonds with both parents.

It is worth mentioning that the Hindu Marriage Act is not the only legal framework that addresses visitation rights. In cases involving inter-religious marriages or couples of different faiths, the courts may rely on other personal laws or the Guardians and Wards Act of 1890 to determine visitation rights and related matters.

In conclusion, the Hindu Marriage Act plays a crucial role in protecting the rights of both custodial and non-custodial parents while ensuring that the child’s best interests remain at the forefront. The Act, combined with relevant case laws, offers guidance on navigating the complex issue of visitation rights, fostering a child’s healthy development, and maintaining strong family bonds. It is essential for all parties involved to approach these matters with sensitivity, compassion, and a commitment to prioritizing the child’s overall well-being.

contributed by :- DEVESH MODI


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