The Covid-19 lockdown has forced many families to spend time apart, but as the regulations have adjusted over the last few weeks, one area which remains unclear to many is whether or not kids can be moved between custodial homes across provincial borders.
We reached out for clarity on the issue, and Tom Smith, a Legal Professional at LAW FOR ALL provided some insight.
In terms of Government regulations, all South Africans must say at home for the duration of the lockdown, except to buy essential goods, seek medical care, attend a funeral, collect a social grant or perform an essential service.
Travel between districts, metros and provinces are strictly prohibited at the moment, he told Parent24.
Nonetheless, some parents need to collect their children during this time, and precedent has been set, as in one instance an urgent application was brought in the Western Cape High Court early in April 2020 (CD v Department of Social Development) and heard by the Honourable Justice Ms Justice Meer.
In this case, the applicants (who are parents of minor children) asked the court to dispense with the lockdown regulations that ban travel between provinces to allow them to fetch their kids at their grandparents' home in Bloemfontein.
To give a bit of background, the kids travelled to Bloemfontein on 22 March 2020 to visit their grandparents during the school holidays and were expected to return to Cape Town between the start of the school term on 31 March 2020. The lockdown started at midnight on 26 March 2020.
The court has to consider the best interest of the children.
In this case, the grandparents are elderly and ill and only equipped to have the children for short periods. There were also concerns that if the grandparents contract Covid-19 that they wouldn't be able to look after the kids at all, thus placing their physical health and well-being at risk.
The applicants are divorced and in terms of their divorce order, incorporated a parenting plan, with arrangements for the children to move between the parents.
Initially, when the Government published Regulations, the movement of children between those holding parental rights and responsibilities or caregivers was forbidden.
The regulations were adjusted on 7 April to allow children to move between parents or caregivers, provided a court order or registered parenting plan was in place.
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The rules were again updated on 17 April 2020 to indicate that birth certificates or certified copies of birth certificates would also suffice to prove a relationship between the parents or caregivers.
The regulations also require that the children must not have come into contact with someone who tested positive for Covid-19 or is reasonably suspected of having contracted Covid-19.
Justice Meer heard the application and permitted the father to fetch his children and return them to Cape Town. The judge ordered that the travel was allowed for this sole purpose, but let the father sleep over for 1 night after travelling to Bloemfontein.
Smith advises, however, that this doesn't mean that parents can get into their cars and drive across provinces to fetch their children.
Unless the regulations are updated again, and if parents want to move their kids between provinces, it’s best to speak to an attorney about the circumstances first, as they may still have to get permission from a court first.
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