Co-parenting during Lockdown

Divorced parents and co-holders of parental rights have experienced a lot of uncertainty since Lockdown.

The Office of the Family Advocate stated that during this pandemic period there is grave anxiety about contact with children. The best interests of children remain paramount and their relationship with both parents should be prioritized, as well the necessary precautions relating to the Lockdown period.

Initially, on 25 March 2020, the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, stated that this is a sensitive matter and that the movement of children is going to be difficult. She urged parents to understand the extraordinary time that needs extraordinary action. She reminded parents who have joint parental rights that they also have joint parental responsibility and to carefully consider the safety of their children.

During a Cape Talk interview with Kieno Kammies on 26 March 2020, Felicity Guest, the Founder of CMDSA (Child Maintenance Difficulties in South Africa), stated that in a matter brought before the KwaZulu-Natal High Court, the Court ruled that children may not move between parents during this Lockdown period. The Judge ruled categorically that this is uncharted territory and the children are to stay where they are at the time of Lockdown. The focus is on the responsibility of every single citizen, which includes the parents’ responsibility for their children’s wellbeing and safety, as set out in the Children’s Act.

However, in a further statement on 28 March 2020, Minister Zulu confirmed that movement of children between parents during the Lockdown period is prohibited to ensure the safety of the children. The children are to remain with the parent at the commencement of Lockdown. She reminded parents to be patient and tolerant during this period. Minister Zulu stated that the regulations are to be implemented for now and, if necessary, can be reviewed at a later stage if found to be unhelpful. Parents are to exercise co-operative parenting and work together to ensure that children are not at risk.

This period may cause certain emotional distress and anxiety. Parents are called upon to be compassionate towards each other and to consider the needs of the children. Contact with the absent parent is still possible via telephone, video platforms and social media, and parents are requested to be generous with all such contact arrangements.

This is indeed a temporary measure and definitely not aimed at giving one parent an advantage over the other. The behaviour of parents during Lockdown could be held against them in Court at a later stage.

Whilst the Court may not consider contact applications during this time as urgent, conflict may best be resolved through mediation. Kindly contact us if you need any assistance during this period. We can arrange for the necessary consultations via telephone conference or video calls such as Skype, Zoom or any other available platform of your choice.

Wishing you and your family the best of health in the weeks ahead.

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