Co-parenting during the South African National Lockdown period – What does the law say? – The good and the abuse

Lockdown South Africa Children remain at home

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


“The child must remain in the custody of the parent with whom the child was with, when lockdown period started” – Directive 6(m)(ii) in terms of the Regulations [30 March 2020]

South Africa is in a state of a national lockdown. Our borders are closed, the economy is standing still or barely moving. There are troops on the ground and police on high alert. The doors of businesses are closed and people are to remain at home. All these measures are in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus. This is an important and necessary measure implemented by the State to flatten the curve. The South Africa, we are living in today is far different than the one we lived in 10 days ago. Not many people saw it coming.

“Continue paying your child support or child maintenance.”

Co-parenting during the National Lockdown Period

Before the commencement of the National Lockdown period, there was uncertainty about how the National Lockdown would affect co-parenting. And rightfully so. Parents had to consider the possibility of no movement of children during the national lockdown period. Not only for their safety and risking infection but for their children as well. What would then happen? Did it mean that the child would have to remain with one parent during the entire lockdown period? Or may they move the children around? This issue was resolved by the government and we wish to bring it to your attention.

What does the regulation or law say?

In summary, and in layman terms, children are not to be moved between parents during the lockdown period. Have a look at the recent regulations.

The regulations in place brought about serious challenges for all. Firstly, what if the parent who is not the primary caregiver, and not capable of caring for the children for extended periods had the children during the start of the lockdown? This parent-only knows how to care for the children for a few days at a time – not at all for 21 days. What if the conditions at his or her home are not the same as the primary home of the children? For example, in the primary home, the children have their room to share, and a bigger place to play, etc. All their clothes are there, also their schoolwork and extramural equipment. This is not the case at the home they are at during the lockdown period. Stepsiblings may also be living with them. The example above is a mellow one, but there are far more serious real examples out there. What if the child is prone to fall ill, and everything he or she needs is at the primary home? The list goes on.

Parents abusing the lockdown situation

Then there is the issue of abusing the National lockdown situation. If a parent refused to return the minor child before the lockdown, then that situation would remain. The primary caregiver would then have to wait 21 days before he or she can physically see the minor child. This is the sad reality of the situation. Should you wish to approach the court for urgent relief, you would have to have very strong and compelling reasons why the child should be removed despite the regulations in place.

What to do 8 days later?

Now that we passed the first week of lockdown, many parents never saw their children for the entire period. Many of those parents may prefer that there be a change in caring arrangements where the other parent can now care for the children for another week. Or a parent may want to only see the children for a few hours. Unless the government changes the regulations, that would not be possible.

What advice do we have for parents during the remainder lockdown period?

Parents should work together to ensure that the child’s best interests are upheld during the lockdown period. Telephone calls, WhatsApp messages, and video calls, to mention a few should constantly be used, if possible, between parents and children.

We also remind parents to continue paying child maintenance and child support during this lockdown period.

Final advice during the lockdown period

Our final advice to all parents is to remain patient during these challenging times. The entire country is in lockdown and many other nations as well. Everyone is, therefore, going through challenges. Businesses are suffering, and people do not know if they would have an income after the lockdown period. If all goes well, and there is no reason to doubt that it would, at the end of the 21-days of lockdown, things would better. We, therefore, should all respect the government’s decision.

Should the situation change during the lockdown period, Our Lawyer (Pty) Ltd would update its website accordingly. If you require legal advice, our online appointment portal is still running. All appointments are done telephonically or via video. We make use of WhatsApp Video, FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype. Stay home and stay safe.

Update: 07 April 2020


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