Children are “always the losers” and pay the “heaviest price” in a custody battle as they are deprived of love and affection of their parents without any fault on their part, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

The apex court, which observed that rights of the child need to be respected as he or she is entitled to love of both the parents, said breakdown of marriage does not signify the end of “parental responsibility”. It said courts should decide the issue of custody while keeping in mind the best interest of the child who is the “victim” in the custody battle, and if efforts to settle matrimonial dispute through the process of mediation do not fructify, then courts should make an endeavour to resolve it as expeditiously as possible because with every passing day the child pays a heavy price.

A bench of justices A M Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi made the observations in a judgement while dealing with a matter in which a couple had been embroiled in a matrimonial dispute since long.

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