What you need to know about moving children between parents during lockdown
Pretoria - Good news for parents who share the custody of their children is that the government has relaxed some of the regulations regarding the children moving from one home to another during this lockdown period.
Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu this week amended her directions that she had previously given concerning the movement of children between parents.
Leading Pretoria lawyer Ferdi Hartzenberg explained that If parents are the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights as defined in the Children’s Act and arrangements are in place for a child or children to move from one parent to the other, then those children can, from Wednesday, move between parents.
He said it is important to note that this will only be possible if such arrangements between parents are reflected in a Court Order (whether permanent or pending the finalisation of court procedures).
“If a Court Order does not exist but an agreement was reached between the parents with regards to the rights and responsibilities of their child or children or a parenting plan exists, then the children will also be allowed to alternate between the parents.”
Hartzenberg said this agreement or parenting plan, however, has to be registered with the office of the Family Advocate. “The most important issue is to ensure that children are kept safe and away from any possible exposure to the coronavirus.”
The directions specifically provide that it must be ensured that the household to which the children will be taken is virus-free. The provisions make it clear that the children are only allowed to move between households if there is no person in the household to which they are moved, who is suspected or reasonably to have come into contact with someone who has the virus.
"Once again it will be easy for a parent to abuse this position and although everybody calls on all South Africans to be reasonable during this time, some individuals will, to the detriment of their children abuse this situation. This issue will only be able to be addressed after the lockdown period has ended,” Hartzenberg said.
For the children to be moved between parents, the parent who is transporting the child, should have with him or her in the car either the Court Order or, in the absence of a Court Order the agreement and/or parenting plan that is registered at the Family Advocate or a certified copy thereof.
Hartzenberg said the question of whether the children may be moved between provinces and or across municipal boundaries has not been addressed.
“If one has a look at the latest judgments in this regard it seems that the courts have adopted a very strict and limiting attitude to the interpretation of the regulations issued in terms of the declared disaster. I would not advise parents to travel across municipal and or provincial borders in this regard,” Hartzenberg said.
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