Child custody after divorce in Cameroon and child maintenance after divorce in Cameroon primarily rested on the best interest of a child.The term ‘custody’ itself is not defined in the Matrimonial Causes Act. However, in Black’s Law Dictionary, custody of children is defined as “The care, control, and maintenance of a child which may be awarded by a court to one of the parents as in a divorce or separation proceeding”. Who takes custody of the child after divorce depends on a number of factors.
CHILD CUSTODY AFTER DIVORCE IN CAMEROON (INTEREST OF CHILDREN)
What constitutes the “interest of children” that a court must consider before making an order of child custody after divorce in Cameroon?
There is no stated rule of what constitutes the interest of a child. It will depend on the circumstances of each case. Karibi-Whyte JSC in the case of Williams v. Williams observed as follows:
“The determination of the welfare of a child is a composite of many factors. Consideration such as the emotional attachment to a particular parent, mother or father; the inadequacy of the facilities, such as educational, religious, or opportunities for proper upbringing are matters which may affect the determination of who should have custody”.
DUTY OF COURT IN DETERMINATION OF INTEREST OF THE CHILD / WHO TAKES CUSTODY OF THE CHILD AFTER DIVORCE
In the determination of the interest of the child in making an order of child custody after divorce in Cameroon, the court will take into consideration the ages of the children; the arrangements made for their accommodation, education, welfare, and general upbringing, as well as the conduct of the applicant. By and large, factors the court may consider in granting child custody after divorce in Cameroon include the followings:
Age: In determining child custody after divorce in Cameroon, the court considers the age of the child. The fact that a child is of a tender age does not necessarily mean that his/her custody will always be granted to the mother but the court will readily do so if it is in the interest of the child.
The law does not lay down any rule or principle that the court is bound to observe. However, whether a court will follow the general belief that it is better for the custody of very young children to be left to their mother will depend on the circumstances of the case.
Sex: In determining child custody after divorce in Cameroon, the court considers the sex of the child. It is generally believed that girls should be in the care of their mothers and boys with their fathers. Again, there is no rule of law in that respect that the courts are bound to observe. It will depend on the circumstances of the case.
The Wishes of the Child: In determining child custody after divorce in Cameroon, the court in some cases considers the wishes of the child. The judge in a custody proceeding may interview the affected child privately, particularly when the child has attained an age when he/she is capable of expressing his/her wishes. However, the child’s view may emerge from welfare reports and will be taken into account. The court usually treats the wishes of the child with caution as this may be coloured either by his age or a parent’s influence.
Education and Religion: In determining child custody after divorce in Cameroon, the court considers education considerations. The court usually gives consideration to the advantages and disadvantages of any arrangement for the education and religion of the child. Matters of religion affect the welfare of the child and courts are anxious to ensure that whatever decision is reached in this respect reflects the child’s best interest.
Conduct of the Parties: In determining child custody after divorce in Cameroon, the court considers the conduct of the parties to the child in determining what the best interest of the child is. However, a parent may not be deprived of custody merely because of his or her conduct which might have contributed to the breakdown of the marriage. The court’s discretion must not be exercised as a punishment for one party or a reward for the other party.
Adequacy of Arrangement for the Child: In determining child custody after divorce in Cameroon, the court considers the arrangement made by either party for the child. Where a party seeks the custody of a child of the marriage, he/she is required to set out the proposed arrangement for accommodation, welfare, education, upbringing, and other arrangements of the child. Unless the party sets out these facts, the court may be reluctant to consider the question of custody in favor of such party.
It should be emphasized that the mere fact that a spouse has material wealth cannot per se be regarded as being in the best interest of the child of the marriage. But the fact that one spouse is in a much better financial position to bring up the child and to provide him or her better accommodation may be decisive. Also, the party who is in a better position to offer the child good accommodation may be preferred.
Medical and Psychological Factors: If custody of a child has been with a parent for a considerable period of time, care must be exercised in the change of custody. This may result in psychological harm to the child. In such a case, the court may order that child custody after divorce in Cameroon remains with the parent already taking care of the child.
TYPES OF CUSTODY ORDERS THE COURT MAY MAKE
The court may make the following orders in determining who takes custody of the child after divorce in Cameroon;
- Divided Custody
- Split Custody
- Joint Custody
There are various child custody orders that the court may make depending on the circumstances of the case. At all times, however, the court shall have regard for the interests of the child as the paramount consideration. The custody orders the court may make include:
This is a situation where the child lives with each parent for part of the year with reciprocal visitation privileges. At the time the child is in the custody of one of the parents, he/she has complete control over the child.
In this case, the court grants custody to one parent and care and control to the other. The result is that the parent vested with custody has the power to control the major decisions of the child’s future while the other parent controls the day-to-day physical upbringing of the child.
The modern approach is to vest the custody of both parents (with powers to make major decisions) and grant care and control to one of them. The court may also grant care and control to one parent without making any order as to custody.
Joint custody involves both parents sharing responsibility and authority with respect to the children. This may involve joint “legal” custody and joint “physical” custody. The effect of this is that both parents are involved in the physical sharing of the child as well as participating in decisions affecting the child’s life such as education, medical problems, etc.
This is in contrast with split custody. It should be noted that “joint” custody does not necessarily mean equal or fifty-fifty sharing of time since each case depends on the child’s age, parent’s availability & desires among other factors.
Before an order of joint custody is made, the court must ensure that the parents would cooperate with each other, otherwise, it will be an order in futility.
CHILD MAINTENANCE AFTER DIVORCE IN CAMEROON
In the course of the divorce proceedings, the court may make an order as to child maintenance after divorce in Cameroon. Pursuant to the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act, any child below the age of 18 is automatically entitled to child maintenance after divorce in Cameroon. The maintenance order the court may make includes welfare support, and education advancement among others.
It is noteworthy that in the award of custody of a child by a court, the paramount interest of the child is the main key. However, it must be understood that the welfare of a child is not only the material provisions in the house, good clothes, food, air conditioners, and television, but it is more of the happiness of the child and his or her psychological development.
Article by Barr. Mafany victor Ngando
Kinsmen Advocates Law Firm
“The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstance”