The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled against an absent father who didn’t want his 12-year-old daughter to emigrate to Kenya with her mother.
The man and woman dated between 2009 and 2012 and had a child before separating.
The child has been living with the mother since she was born.
She is now married and has another child, who is four.
The mother secured an executive position in an international organisation and will be based in Nairobi, Kenya; hence, she decided to relocate with her family.
She encountered a pushback from her former partner when she wanted consent from him to relocate with their daughter.
His reason was that he feared for the child’s safety, as the region is known for terrorist activity.
Initially, the father consented to the move on the condition that the daughter use his surname, and when she’s in high school, she relocates to Dubai to live with him when he is granted a residence permit.
The mother said the request was unreasonable and would frustrate the travel process.
Moreover, she said the father has never invited their daughter to a sleepover, and she doesn’t even know his family. She didn’t see how their daughter could relocate to Dubai without having built a proper relationship with her father.
Through her legal representative, the mother argued that she has supported her child in every way since birth and said the father has never been involved in the child’s school or social life.
He only came to the daughter’s school when she was in Grade R and has never been actively involved in her growth, development, academic life, or extracurricular activities.
She added that it was not unusual for the father to be absent from the daughter’s life for months on end, and this was his choice.
At some point, he even stopped paying child maintenance.
She further argued that the daughter has a good relationship with her half-sister and stepfather, whom she has known for over eight years.
She said the daughter will be enrolled at an international school in Nairobi, and her registration is pending the determination of this matter as the school requires the consent of both parents.
Regarding the child’s safety, she said the husband works from home and he will be able to support her needs; meanwhile, she will be working a hybrid schedule and will be at home sometimes and will be available for her daughter.
In his defence, the father denied that his contact with his daughter is sporadic; he argued that they share a close bond, and according to him, she is well integrated into his own family.
Regarding the payment of maintenance, he said he was self-employed and encountered challenges during the pandemic.
He said in July 2023, he paid over R16,000 towards her school fees, and soon after that, he took her on a holiday to Dubai with his family. She travelled in business class, and she stayed at an expensive hotel.
He denied that he neglected his parental duties.
He added that he was willing to reimburse the mother for the maintenance money but would only do that as soon as she retracts her statement labelling him a delinquent father.
Acting Judge Mahomed said there was no evidence before court that the child was unhappy or unwilling to move to Kenya, and there was no reason to doubt that she would receive support from her family.
Moreover, the judge said the mother cannot be faulted for seeking to improve her career and earnings.
“She has a life to pursue, and there is nothing to suggest that she will not continue her commitment to the minor child. She has secured employment and has in the past managed to support her minor child’s needs.”
The judge added that there was scant evidence of the father’s reliability or commitment to the child.
‘’The mother has never been able to rely on him. It appears he has his priorities mixed up; he fails to pay maintenance because he cannot afford it, but he manages to take the minor child and his family on a luxury holiday to Dubai on business-class travel.“
The judge ordered the father to pay the costs of the application.