Parental responsibilities explained

Divorce and child custody

According to Dino Montepara, from Malherbe, Rigg and Ranwell Attorneys, the decision made by the courts varies from case to case.
“The court will look at what is in the child’s best interest, where the child will thrive the most, and place the child with that parent,” he said.
He added that the courts often prefer to place young girls with their mothers.
“The courts do not like to split siblings, so if there is a young girl and a brother, both children will often be placed with the mother.”
This may change depending on the case’s circumstances.
In terms of the Children’s Act there are five parental responsibilities.
These include:
* Guardianship. This refers to the four major decisions regarding the child. These include being adopted by a third party, getting married before the age of 18, entering into any commercial transaction or receiving a passport. Should one parent not consent to any of these, then the high court will act as an upper guardian.
* Care. This refers to the day-to-day decision making. Such as which school the child will attend or what sports they will play.
* Primary residency. This is where the child will live most of the time.
* Contact. Refers to what type of visitation the non-primary parent will receive.
* Maintenance. Both parents have the responsibility to maintain the child.
“If the child’s parents were married or living together at the time of the child’s birth, then both parents are automatically awarded all rights and responsibilities.
“If the parents were not together, but the father acknowledges the child and can show that he financially supports the child as well as costs for the birth, then he has rights.”
Montepara added that if the father cannot show that he has supported the child then he will need to approach the courts to be awarded his rights and responsibilities.
“However, maintenance is always an obligation whether or not the parent has their rights and responsibilities.”
Another topic often fought about is visitation and when the child should spend a weekend with the non-primary parent.
“According to psychological studies, the younger the child the shorter but more frequent the visitation should be, whereas the older the child the less frequent but longer the visitation should be.”
Parents often think that if the child is older they can decide where they want to live, although, this is not the case. If the child is older and mature they will have more weight to decide. However, the court still makes the final decision.
“Each case is decided on based on its own merits, at any stage a parent can approach the courts and can query the decision should circumstances change.”

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