Meaning of contact and care between divorced parents

2017-05-03 06:01

GETTING divorced is an unfortunate incident which sometimes has a harsher impact on minor children than the divorced parents. Such an event is usually life-changing. Notwithstanding this, a divorce affects the two parents because in most cases one of the parents will obtain day-to- day “care” and the other will obtain “contact” with respect to the minor child.

The two terms were once known as “custody” and “access” prior to the enactment of the new Children’s Act.

The Children’s Act defines “care” as providing for a child with the following - a suitable place to live in, living conditions that are conductive to the child’s health, well-being and development and necessary financial support which also includes maintaining a sound relationship with a child.

The term “care” is defined in detail in the Act, which serves as an indication that the legislator intended to ensure that a child’s best interests are protected, thereby fulfilling Section 28(2) of the Constitution which states that “a child’s interest are of paramount importance in every matter concerning a child”.

The term “contact” is defined by the Children’s Act as the maintenance of a personal relationship with a child which includes the right to communicate with the child on a regular basis, being able to visit and being visited by the child or being able to communicate with the child through post or by telephone or through any other form of electronic communication.

However, in most cases it becomes difficult to get into contact with a child because of the high emotions caused by the divorce which can have a negative impact on a child’s well-being.

An example of such negativity is the Parental Alienation Syndrome, a condition whereby a child rejects or establishes a negative attitude towards the other parent (usually the parent awarded contact) because of being degraded by the care giving parent.

Section 33 of the Children’s Act has introduced a concept known as “parental plans” to regulate the exercise of parental responsibilities and rights held in common by such parent’s. Parental plans set out parenting arrangements with respect to a child. This includes how much time each parent will spend with a child and how major decisions affecting the child will be taken.

This article is for general information purposes only and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice.

No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.

Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. - Ayanda Msimang (candidate attorney).

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