The regulations relating to the movement of children during lockdown were amended on 16 April 2020, with the latest changes now allowing parents to move children between custodians if they carry the children’s birth certificate or a certified copy thereof with them.
The previous regulations only allowed parents who possessed a court order or parenting plan to move children between homes, leaving thousands of parents still unable to have their children home with them.
Deborah Di Siena of Di Siena Attorneys told Parent24 that the amended regulations are aimed at the inclusion of unmarried parents and parents who are in the process of getting divorced where no court order or parenting plan has been put in place yet.
Best interests of the children remain paramount
While this is good news, parents must remember that the best interests of the children remain paramount.
To this end, Di Siena reminds parents that their contact is still subject to the condition that children may not be moved to a household where a person is known to have come into contact, or is reasonably suspected to have come into contact with any other person known to have contracted, or is reasonably suspected to have contracted Covid -19.
She stresses that the parent transporting the child must have the court order or the parental responsibilities and rights agreement or parenting plan or the birth certificate of the child in his/her possession while transporting the children.
An emotional roller coaster ride
Felicity Guest, founder of Child Maintenance Difficulties South Africa (CMDSA), told us that social media was flooded with concerns from parents who did not meet the criteria. She shared some parent's concerns with us:
"I’m truly about to crack, this has been really hard, he has never been away from either parent for longer than a few days" - Anonymous parent
"As a parent of a young 6 year old daughter with limited contact normally I have had to make do with video and phone calls for the past three weeks due to the unfortunate Covid-19 situation. It has been exceptionally hard for both of us; each amendment has been an emotional roller coaster ride. On the worst days, it has felt like my heart has been ripped out of my chest." - Anonymous parent
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"Our lives were turned upside down 3 weeks ago, with Covid-19 and the lockdown coming in to effect, I left my son with his father on the evening of lockdown, not knowing that I wouldn’t see him for three weeks!
It was heart breaking to say the least, the endless FaceTime calls, and WhatsApp calls, were my son was in tears, crying uncontrollably, not knowing or understanding why he couldn’t come home to me.
His father and I never had a court order or a parenting plan in place, why? Because we were the few parents that didn’t think we needed it, we separated over 6 years ago, and have a mutual agreement in place, a verbal one. Yet the powers that be, decided that we couldn’t move our child in between our homes as we had none of the above." - Anonymous parent
Prevent the spread
It is cries for help like these, Guest told Parent24, that motivated her to petition the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Social Development, and a few other senior role players, on 12 April, calling for a lifting of the regulations.
She says that while pleased about the new amendments, it is important to note that the commitment by government to ensure the safety of the citizens of our country and the willingness to protect everybody has to be acknowledged.
Steering a country through a pandemic requires the co-operation of the state and civil society, she says, and it needs to be emphasised that while the directives have been relaxed, it is imperative to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and parents need to exercise extreme caution to prevent the spread and should not put their children at risk.
Di Siena reminds parents that failure to abide by the Regulations can result in your arrest, imprisonment and/or a fine.
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