Meghan Markle's father claims he is alienated from his grandchildren, what would SA law do to help him?

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak on stage at Global Citizen Live in New York City. Photo: Getty Images
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle speak on stage at Global Citizen Live in New York City. Photo: Getty Images

Meghan Markle's father Thomas Markle has claimed, during an exclusive interview with ITV's Good Morning Britain programme, that his daughter has refused him access to see his two grandchildren.

He pleaded with Meghan to allow him to see his first grandson, Archie, who is two years old and his granddaughter Lilibet who is only a few months old.

"We're at a point where I think both of us, we should grow up, talk, make up for the sake of the children," he said in the exclusive interview. He added that it is ridiculous that he has not seen Meghan for almost four years now.

When a parent withholds visitation or contact, or turns a child against their other parent or their grandparents, this is called parental alienation. 

According to clinical psychologist Dr Marilé Viljoen, "Parental alienation is a set of processes and behaviours conducted and enacted by a parent to deliberately and knowingly damage or sever the relationship between a child and another parent with whom the child enjoyed a prior loving relationship." Grandparents, as interested third parties, can be victims of alienation too. 

A violation of a child's rights 

Although we don't know what may be the cause of the Duchess of Sussex' supposed alienation, it is something that happens all to often in South Africa, and we thought it was important to help our readers understand what they can do if they feel they are also alienated from their grandchildren.

Here, parental alienation is a direct violation of a child's rights, according to the Children's Act

Shando Theron, a family and matrimonial law specialist and senior partner at a Johannesburg-based firm, shared some valuable insights on what alienated grandparents can do.

"Grandparents are legally considered interested third parties," he told Parent24, adding that they have the right to apply for contact with the child, either via the Children's Court or the High Court.

Theron explained that the court looks at several factors including the best interest of the child, evidence of the relationship and the importance of culture, family and traditions.

When grandparents are bringing their application, Theron advises that it is important to provide evidence of the relationship that exists between parties and how committed the grandparent is or has been to the child.

"If their application is accepted, they can receive an order granting them continued contact with their grandchild or grandchildren," says Theron. 

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