Updated: 16 April 2020
New regulations have been issued on 16 April 2020. Click on the link below:
The material change is that you do not have to have a court order or a parental responsibilities and rights agreement or parenting plan, registered with the family advocate. Possession of a birth certificate or certified copy of a birth certificate is now also allowed.
Update: 07 April 2020
What separated and divorced parents should think about prior to the coronavirus lockdown
With the world working towards eradicating the spreading of the coronavirus, South Africans are going to be placed on lockdown from 11:59 on Thursday 26 March 2020. This will endure for a period of 21 (twenty-one) days. This is what President Cyril Ramaphosa announced yesterday on national television.
The applicable legislation allowing for this is the Disaster Management Act. This is done to contain the spread of the coronavirus in South Africa. What this means, in essence, unless you fall under the categories of persons allowed to work and be out there, you should remain at home.
The Application of Contact and care Court Orders during the lockdown
Schools have already been locked down and its keys stored away. The number of people who may be in the same place at the same time was restricted to an amount of 100. Now things have escalated to everyone staying at home unless you are allowed to be outside. This, however, leaves us with uncertain legal challenges when it comes to the exercising of contact and parental responsibilities and rights to minor children.
It becomes even more challenging if there is a court order allowing a parent to have contact, but the child is currently with the other parent during the lockdown.
• Does the court order supersede what the President told us to do?
• Can we go against the lockdown injunction to exercise contact?
At this moment, the questions are hard to answer. And in our view, should not be answered, unless clearer directives are provided by the government, dealing with this situation.
What are the usual contact and care arrangements?
The usual contact and care rights are any or a combination of the following:
• The minor child will reside primarily with one parent for a period, and then with the other parent for the same period;
• One parent has primary care with the child during the week, and the other parent has contact during alternative weekends;
• The child resides with one parent, and the other parent collects the minor child in the morning and takes and collects the minor child from school. Thereafter returning the minor child to the primary caregiver;
• Supervised contact, where a parent has contact at the minor child’s primary home, supervised by the other parent or another person;
• Contact which is supervised in a public space, or by a social worker; and
• Other specific cases.
Contact would also entail telephonic and video contact.
How should contact be exercised during a lockdown?
There are 2 (two) more days before the lockdown. What happens to weekend contact? Some parents are exercising holiday contact at present.
• What happens at the end of a specific parent’s holiday period?
• Can a parent go and collect the child or children and have them now stay at a different parent?
• And then return the children later, still during a lockdown?
These and other questions are unprecedented, and direction is required from the government, not only lawyers. At the very least, parents should use the next two (2) days to decide where the children would primarily reside, and if indeed they can only live in one home for the 21 days, how contact can take place via other means. For example, WhatsApp video, FaceTime, Skype or Zoom.
Final words on parental contact during the lockdown
• Do not take the law into your own hands.
• Until there is certainty on this issue, presume that the child would need to remain with one parent during this period.
• Arrange for alternative forms of contact as suggested above.
• Also, ensure that the child has enough clothes and necessities at the home he or she will reside during the lockdown.
• Use the next two (2) days to prepare for the worst, so that your child would have the best.
Update: 07 April 2020