Children ‘used as clubs’ in fight between adults

Children ‘used as clubs’ in fight between adults. Picture: File

Children ‘used as clubs’ in fight between adults. Picture: File

Published Jan 24, 2024


GROWNUPS lose their objectivity and use the children as clubs to beat each other, and ultimately the children suffer the most trauma in the process.

This is according to a judge who was confronted with an ongoing family feud in which two children took centre stage.

Judge John Holland-Muter, sitting in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, remarked that it is clear that there will be no winners should the parties continue with this trend. The ultimate losers, he said, will be the children.

“It is clear that all the parties need professional guidance through this myriad with the ultimate aim to act in the interest of the children.”

This matter has a long and what the court termed sad history of two children orphaned after losing both their parents within a short time span. Their mother died in July 2017 and their father died two years later -- both victims of cancer.

“In an ideal world one would have expected their close relatives to embrace them with love and compassion to ease their loss and to make life without their parents more bearable,” the judge said.

“Sadly, as in many similar matters, the close family became engaged in bitter ongoing legal skirmishes.”

The father nominated his parents in law, the first and second respondents in this case, as guardians of the two children. Should they die or be unable to take care of the children, he nominated his brother (the applicant) as guardian.

There were skirmishes shortly after the death of the father, mostly because of some movable assets that belonged to the deceased, which were allegedly taken by his brother.

The growing animosity between the brothers and the grandparents resulted in ongoing litigation.

A curator was eventually appointed to act on behalf of the children and to advise the court of what is ultimately in their best interest.

While this investigation has not yet been finalised, the court earlier issued an interim order in favour of the children’s uncle (the applicant in this case), granting him access to the children, which included that they have to stay with him and his wife every second weekend and during some holidays.

The contact rights were subject to the finalisation of an investigation regarding the best interests of the minor children, specifically the parental responsibilities and rights to be exercised over the children by all the parties concerned.

The children are at present living with their maternal grandparents in the house in which they grew up. Their father is said to have ensured that they are financially taken care of, via a trust.

But the grandparents are opposed to the uncle having contact with the children and they tried twice, in vain, to appeal against the order granting him and his wife access to them.

The grandfather meanwhile sent a message to the uncle, that the children no longer wanted to visit him.

This prompted this application by the uncle in a bid to enforce the previous order that was issued in his favour.

The grandparents are also dead set against part of the previous order, in which the court ruled that all the members of the family, including the children, had to undergo therapy and counselling so that they could bury the hatchet.

They said they have raised their own children and they don't need guidance in this regard.

The curator, appointed on behalf of the children, tried her best to see to it that the parties adhered to the orders.

“In my view, the mere reaction of the respondents (grandparents) illustrates the need for therapy in these circumstances. The long term object is to restore a cordial relationship between the respondents and the applicants in the interest of the minor children, “ the judge said.

This was what the deceased father of the children envisaged when appointing the successive guardians for his children for the future, he added.

The grandparents are advanced in life and the future cannot be predicted, but should anything happen to them before the children attain majority, the uncle becomes their guardian.

The judge said the grandparents do not have the right to appoint any successor should they become incapable to continue as guardians.

“The will of the deceased is clear in this regard,” the judge said.

He warned the grandparents to toe the line or face the music.

Pretoria News

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