Care and Contact and Parenting Plans

The word “custody” is not a term used in the Children’s Act. When the Children’s Act was implemented, the term “custody” seems to have been replaced with the term “care”, which according to the Act includes:

  1. providing the child with a suitable place to live;
  2. providing living conditions that are conducive to the child’s health, well-being and development;
  1. providing the necessary financial support;
  2. safeguarding and promoting the child’s well-being;
  3. protecting the child from maltreatment, abuse, neglect, degradation, discrimination, exploitation and any other physical, emotional or moral harm or hazards;
  1. respecting, protecting, promoting and securing the fulfilment of, and guarding against any infringement of, the child’s rights set out in the Bill of Rights and principles set out in Chapter 2 of the Act;
  1. guiding, directing and securing the child’s education and upbringing, including religious and cultural education, in a manner appropriate to the child’s age, maturity and stage of development;
  1. guiding, advising and assisting in decisions to be taken by the child in a manner appropriate to the child’s age, maturity and stage of development;
  1. guiding the behaviour of the child in a humane manner;
  2. maintaining a sound relationship with the child;
  3. accommodating any special needs that the child may have; and
  4. ensuring that the child’s best interests are the overriding concern in all matters affecting the child.

When the Children’s Act was implemented, the term “access” was replaced with the term “contact”, which according to the Act is defined as:

  • maintaining a personal relationship with the child; and
  • if the child lives with someone else, communicating on a regular basis with the child in person, including
  • visiting the child; or
  • being visited by the child; or
  • communicating on a regular basis with the child in any other manner, including:
  • by post;
  • by telephone; or
  • by any other means of electronic communication, such as Skype, email and Facebook.

A child has a right to have contact with both his/her parents. When determining the amount of contact and form of contact a parent should have with the child, the above mentioned factors contained in the Children’s Act must be considered.  Every situation is unique and the outcome will depend on the facts of each case, the parents’ relationship with the child, the child’s stage of development, and where applicable, the child’s wishes.

During a divorce or parental separation, nothing can be more distressing than the prospect of a difficult dispute relating to care and contact of a child. Care and contact is one of the most difficult issues a parent can face during divorce or separation.

At Van Heerdens Attorneys, we understand the impact that divorce and parental separation may have on parents and children. We work hard to negotiate effective parenting plan arrangements that directly address the best interests of your children. When dealing with care and contact, our clients appreciate the caring and supportive atmosphere that we provide to families along with our legal expertise and experience. We are dedicated to protecting your rights to raise your child in a healthy, thriving environment.

We represent parents in all aspects of care and contact, including:

  • Primary and joint care arrangements
  • Contact rights
  • Modification of care and contact Orders
  • Enforcement of care and contact Orders
  • Parental alienation

Negotiation and compromise in the child’s best interest is always the approach we emphasise first. A respectful, honourable, more humane decision-making approach is preferable to, and less traumatic than, litigation. Clinical research shows the importance of ongoing relationships with both parents. We work with mothers and fathers to develop parenting plan arrangements that respond to this fundamental need. We seek care and contact arrangements that benefit the children of divorce or separated parents and serve primarily the best interests of the child or children.

What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is an agreement between the co-holders of parental rights and responsibilities. The Children’s Act provides that parents can enter into written agreements (parenting plans) which are aimed at documenting the parental rights and responsibilities of parents after divorce or separation. It covers various aspects related to the care and contact of minor children born out of a marriage or any other relationship, which include:

  1. Child maintenance;
  2. Where and with whom the child will live;
  3. Contact between the child and the non-primary caregiver parent, or any other person;
  4. Schooling and religious upbringing of the child; and
  5. How decisions about the child are made.

Essentially, a parenting plan is a roadmap directing how children will be raised after divorce or separation and must at all times comply with the best-interests-of-the-child principle as set out in the Children’s Act.

The Children’s Act allows for children to be consulted during the negotiation and drafting stage of the parenting plan in order for the child to give their input into certain aspects contained in the parenting plan. For example, with whom the child would like to live, the amount of time the child would like to spend with each parent, and any other aspect which may have a bearing on the child’s life and up-bringing. The age of the child will determine the level of input the child may be permitted to give. Once the parenting plan is complete, it is signed by both parents.

Parenting plans need to be reviewed as and when the need to do so arises, as children’s developmental needs change over time. These review periods can range anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the child’s age and stage of development.

Do you have a matter which you would like to discuss?

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