Senior family law expert giving the best simple advice on International Relocation of minor children – Adv. Muhammad Abduroaf
International Relocation matters concerning minor children is one category of our law that requires more attention than other categories of family law. If you intend to relocate overseas with your minor child or do not want your minor child to relocate with the other parent, this article is for you.
Advocate Muhammad Abduroaf is a senior family law expert with over twenty years of experience in Family law. He runs a Law Firm styled Advocate Muhammad Abduroaf in Cape Town. He is a Trust Account Advocate. What this means, he takes on work from members of the public directly. Other advocates need to be instructed by an attorney to act in your case.
When does the relocation of minor children disputes arise?
The starting point is that parents and their children live in South Africa. A parent, usually the primary caregiver, wants to relocate with the minor child to another country. For this example, we will assume both parents are co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights of guardianship over the specific minor child. For the minor child to leave the Republic of South Africa and relocate with the other parent overseas, the guardianship consent of the parent remaining in South Africa would be required. This is a requirement as provided for in section 18 of the Children’s Act.
A dispute arises if the parent remaining in South Africa does not consent to the relocation of the minor child to a different country. This is so as, without a court order stating otherwise, the minor child would not be allowed to relocate overseas.
When should a parent approach the Court in an international relocation matter involving a minor child?
In principle, anyone can approach a court for any matter. However, not everyone would be successful in their case. Therefore, before you approach the Court for consent for the minor child to relocate with you to a different country, you must make sure you have a strong case. On the other hand, if you are a parent whose consent is required and do not want to provide it, you must ensure you have a reason for refusing it. If, however, you do have a strong case, as we would explain further below, for the relocation, then in that case, you should approach the Court.
The best interests of the child’s principle
Both the South African Constitution and the Children’s Act clearly state that a child’s best interests are the most critical factor when it comes to it. In other words, not the best interests of the parents, but the best interests of the child. However, there are cases where upholding the interests of a parent would be in the minor child’s best interests. For example, a much better job offer. In relocation matters, if the parents cannot agree on the relocation of the minor child, then the Court would intervene and only direct that the relocation is authorised if it is of the view that it would be in the minor child’s best interests.
What do I present to the Court regarding international relocation matters?
According to Advocate Muhammad Abduroaf, the reason why people relocate is vast. For most, it is for work or a better life; for others, it is related to going back home or living with a spouse or a loved one. However, that is the reason why the parents want to relocate. Whatever the reason, you need to demonstrate that the minor child would not be in a worse position after the relocation. Therefore, you would have to demonstrate that there would be adequate housing, food, education, medical services and so on after the relocation. In other words, the minor child would not be neglected and would have a good life with his or her primary caregiver.
What can I do if I do not want the relocation to take place?
It is scarce where the non-primary caregiver wants to relocate with the minor child. However, given the correct facts and circumstances, it is possible. In this example, the primary caregiver wants to relocate with the minor child, and the parent remaining behind does not want to consent. That parent must show that it would not be in the minor child’s best interests to relocate. The parent may even go as far as to show that they can care well enough for the minor child in South Africa and that the de facto primary caregiver is welcome to relocate without the minor child.
When do I approach the Court?
As already alluded to above, if the parents cannot come to an agreement regarding the relocation of the minor child to a different country, then in that case, the Court should be approached. It is best to make use of an experienced family lawyer (attorney or Trust Account Advocate). Both parents would provide information in the form of affidavits to the Court as to reasons for the relocation and/or the refusal thereof. In many cases, the Court would appoint the Office of the Family to get involved and do an investigation as to what is in the minor child’s best interests. The Court would then make a ruling on the relocation of the minor child to a foreign country.