New law on parenting

By admin
09 April 2010

After a long wait the new Children’s Act has come to the rescue of many despairing single parents who are blocked from seeing their children by spiteful and obstructive ex-partners.

It’s a common complaint among divorced and unmarried single parents – despite having the law on their side non-custodial parents often end up at the mercy of the custodial parent’s whims because it’s too expensive to take legal action.

This has now changed. Previously they’d have to approach the high court on issues of custody and access to a child. Now they can appeal to an officer of the children’s court at their local magistrate’s court and it won’t cost them a cent.

The new Children’s Act recognises grandparents who feel their rights have been infringed.

The new Children’s Act is enforceable after 13 years of intensive research and consultation. It heralds a new dispensation for children – now their best interests come first, experts say.

The emphasis now falls on children’s right to proper parental care – from both parents and other parental figures such as grandparents.

‘‘The new Act stipulates any parent can be fined or jailed if he/she refuses another parent with parental rights and responsibilities contact with his or her child.’’ And that’s prison time up to a year, Ashley Theron, executive director of Child Welfare South Africa, says in Johannesburg.

‘‘It also recognises the contact rights of grandparents and step-parents who have meaningful relationships with children,’’ he says.

The aim of the Act is to give children a say in decisions that affect their lives, says Hester Bosman-Sadie, behavioural scientist and co-author of A Practical Approach to the Children’s Act.

In custody decisions gender and sexual orientation no longer rule, such as the ‘‘maternal preference rule’’ that saw kids usually placed with their mothers, Bosman-Sadie says.

‘‘The new Act reflects the idea that competent parenting has more to do with personality than gender. More and more fathers are getting to care for their children.’’

More on the new law in the 15 April issue of YOU.

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