Court decides for separated parents

2017-02-15 10:21
Child can go to school while parents wrangle.

Child can go to school while parents wrangle. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - An emotional “tug-of-war” between a separated couple over their child’s schooling ended when a high court intervened as “upper guardian” of the child.

The mother of the seven-year-old boy, who cannot be named, brought an urgent application in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday to demand that the biological father sign and present all necessary documents to enroll the child in a certain primary school within 24 hours.

In her affidavit, the boy’s mother alleged that the child was unhappy in the school he had been attending as he was being bullied. However, when she succeeded with much difficulty in getting a place for her son in the school of her choice — a school both she and the boy’s father initially agreed on — the biological dad refused to sign the necessary documents, saying he was “not consulted”.

The high court granted the mother’s interim application on Monday and ordered the biological father to sign all necessary documents to enroll their son in the primary school concerned, as this was deemed in the best interests of the child. Attorney Siva Chetty, who represented the mother in the case, said the parents could continue their legal tussle if they decided to do so, but in the meantime the child could now settle into his new school. The case will return to court on March 28.

According to the mother’s affidavit she and the boy’s father entered into a customary marriage in 2008. However, their relationship was “tumultuous” and the couple were permanently separated in 2015. The boy lives with the mother, but the father has frequent access to him.

The mother has since married again and has a child with her new partner.

She said that since 2014 attempts were made to enroll her eldest son in a particular primary school. Both she and the boy’s biological father had agreed on the school. However, their son was not initially accepted into the school of their choice. She alleges that after her separation from the biological father “issues” started to arise regarding their son.

She said in 2016 their son began to display “unusual behaviour” at the school he was attending at the time, and was reluctant to attend school.

It emerged that he was being bullied and a psychologist was also consulted. On one occasion he had allegedly been kicked in the groin by other children.

She alleged that the boy’s biological father was aware of the bullying and its effect on the boy.

The mother said she had put their son’s name on a waiting list at the original school she and his father had chosen for him, admittedly without informing the biological father, but she did not anticipate that “this would be a problem”.

She was overjoyed to receive a call last week to say the new school had a place for her son. However, to her “surprise” the father of the boy objected and asked why she took this decision without his knowledge. He then allegedly told the school he objected to their son’s admission and declined to provide necessary documentation to the school, which required the consent of both parents.

The mother said she had no other option but to apply to the high court, being the “upper guardian” of her child, to compel the father to co-operate so that the boy could be enrolled at school.

Legal sources have told The Witness that the case is “not unusual” in the sense that children sadly often become innocent victims of disputes when their parents separate or divorce.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  education  |  child abuse

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