Category: Children (page 1 of 2)

SPANKING KIDS NOW ILLEGAL

The South Gauteng High Court ruled that the common law defence of reasonable chastisement is not in line with the Constitution and no longer applies in our law. This means disciplining your child in the form of a spanking is no longer considered legal within South Africa.

How did it come to this?

It has always been considered a crime of assault to hit a child, however, if a parent was charged, they would be able to raise a special defence which said that if the chastisement, or discipline, was reasonable they would not be found guilty.

The special defence of chastisement has been removed by the Court, which was to bring the common law in line with the Constitution. This followed an appeal by a father who had been found guilty of assault because he beat his 13-year-old son. The way in which he beat his son was deemed to exceed the bounds of reasonable chastisement.

The Court said that it wanted to guide and support parents in finding more positive and effective ways of disciplining children. The Minister of Social Development, Bathabilie Dlamini, also agreed that the defence of reasonable chastisement is unconstitutional. The Court said that protecting children was particularly important in the context of the high levels of child abuse and violence that pervade our society.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

YG v S (A263/2016) [2017] ZAGPJHC 290 (19 October 2017)

“It’s now illegal to spank your child in SA”. https://www.enca.com/south-africa/it-is-now-illegal-to-spank-your-child-in-sa

CHILDREN WITH DISABILITY OR CHRONIC ILLNESS

The South African Children’s Act ensures the safety of ALL children, including those with disability or chronic illness.

 Many children (and their families) experience a sense of powerlessness in the beginning of dealing with a disability or chronic illness, and often feel very stressed at facing a future filled with unknowns. Every child has the right to health and safety, and in South Africa, the Children’s Act provides for the health and safety of ALL children, including children with disability or chronic illness. It is important that children who are disabled or live with a chronic illness know their rights; they should be informed and protected.

 The law on children with disability

South African law states that due consideration must be given to children with disability:

  • The child must be provided with care and support as and when appropriate.
  • It must be made possible for the child to participate in social and educational activities, recognising their special needs and promoting self-reliance.

The law on children with chronic illness

According to South African law, the following must be evident when it comes to children with chronic illness:

  • The child must be provided with the necessary parental care and support services.
  • The child must be provided with conditions that ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate participation in the community.

A child with disability or chronic illness has the right not to be subjected to medical, cultural or religious practices that are detrimental to their health or dignity. Parents or guardians should do their best to protect the rights of their children, and also to listen to them and assist them where needed. However, it is important not to safeguard them in such a way as to alienate them from the rest of the world.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

Children’s Act 38 of 2005. http://www.justice.gov.za/legislation/acts/2005-038%20childrensact.pdf

WHO PAYS FOR THE CHILD AFTER DIVORCE?

When couples divorce it’s often the children that feel the brunt of it. Sometimes it’s the other person in the relationship that suffers economically. Hence the reason there’s a legal duty towards maintenance after divorce, which is an obligation to provide for another person.

A child of a divorced couple, for example, may need help with housing, food, education and medical care. Maintenance could also be understood as providing the means for the person to have the necessary essentials. Maintenance duties is based on factors such as blood relationship, adoption, or that two people are/were married to each other.

This duty is also referred to as ‘the duty to maintain’ or ‘the duty to support’. 

Which parent supports the child?

If a couple has decided on getting divorced, then the child has to be supported by both the parents, regardless if they’re living together or whether or not the child was adopted. In some cases, the grandparents are also responsible for the child’s maintenance, even if the parents weren’t married. This usually happens if the parents are unable to support the child.

What if the child is living with one parent?

In scenarios where the child is living with one of the parents, it is still the duty of the other parent to also contribute to the maintenance of the child. Many people in South Africa, especially women, face the reality of an ex-spouse who doesn’t live with the child and doesn’t want to pay maintenance. However, there is no legal way out of a parent contributing to a child’s maintenance, even if one of the parents re-marries.

What if you can’t find your non-paying ex-spouse?

If one of the child’s parents refuses to pay and doesn’t make their whereabouts known, then it is the responsibility of the state to claim maintenance from the unpaying parent. Maintenance investigators will try solve the issue and trace the person who is responsible for maintenance.

When does the maintenance end?

Until a child reaches the age of 18, his/her parents or another person (guardian) will have the parental rights and responsibilities for the child. This includes the maintenance of the child. So both the divorced parents of a child will have to contribute to the caring and maintenance of the child at least until he/she becomes an adult.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

Justice.gov.za. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Family Law, Maintenance. [online] Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/vg/children/ [Accessed 13/05/2016].

HOW CAN AN UNMARRIED FATHER OBTAIN PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES?

Under the old dispensation, where parties were divorced, one parent (usually the mother) would usually be awarded custody of a minor child and the other parent (usually the father) would be entitled to visitation rights.

The custodian parent would be vested with making all of the day-to-day decisions of the minor child including which school the child would attend, what religion the child would practice, where the child would reside and so on.

The parents now have joint parental responsibilities and rights, and all major decisions relating to the minor child need to be taken by the parties jointly, which is a far healthier situation for the child.

  • If the unmarried father only wants to apply for care and/or contact, he can do so in the Children’s Court.
  • If the unmarried father wants to apply for guardianship, an application must be made in the High Court.
  • If the unmarried father wants to apply for care, contact and guardianship, he must bring the application in the High Court.

An unmarried biological father may ask a court of law to grant him full parental responsibilities if he:

  • at the time of the child’s birth, is living with the mother in a permanent life partnership, or
  • consents to be identified as the child’s father, or
  • successfully applies to be identified as the child’s father, or
  • pays damages in terms of Customary Law, or
  • contributes or has tried to contribute to the child’s maintenance and upbringing for a reasonable period.

What factors will the court take into account when considering an application for parental rights and responsibilities?

  • The best interests of the child.
  • The relationship between the unmarried father and the child.
  • The relationship between any other person and the child, such as the mother.
  • The degree of commitment the unmarried father has shown towards the child.
  • Whether the unmarried father has contributed or attempted to contribute to the maintenance of the child.
  • Any other factor the court considers to be relevant, such as:
    • whether the unmarried father has a history of violence towards children;
    • the effect of separating the child from his/her mother; or
    • the child’s attitude towards the relief sought in the application.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/unwed-father/

http://www.parent24.com/Family/Finance_Legal/Unmarried-Know-your-rights-20150826

GETTING CHILD CONTACT FOR DIVORCED PARENTS

My Lawyer_Images-03Contact refers to maintaining a personal relationship with a child. It entitles a person to see, spend time with (visit or be visited) or communicate (through post, by telephone or any form of electronic communication) with a child who does not live with that person. The child’s parent/s or a person other than the child’s parent/s (such as grandparent) can obtain the right to contact a child, provided that the contact would serve in the child’s best interests.

What will the court consider when granting an order in respect of contact?

  • The best interests of the child.
  • The nature of the personal relationship between the child and his/her parent/s.
  • The degree of commitment the parent/s has shown towards the child.
  • The extent to which the parent/s has contributed towards the expenses in connection with the birth and maintenance of the child.
  • The likely effect on the child of any change in the child’s circumstances, including the effect of being separated from the parent/s or brothers/sisters with whom the child has been living.
  • Any family violence involving the child or a family member of the child.
  • The need to protect the child from any physical or psychological harm that may be caused by subjecting or exposing the child to maltreatment, abuse, neglect, degradation, violence or harmful behaviour.
  • The child’s age, maturity, stage of development, gender, background and relevant characteristics of the child.
  • Any disability that a child may have and any chronic illness from which a child may suffer from.

A parenting plan will contain a clause setting out the reasonable contact that the parent of alternate residence shall have with the child during term time and school holidays, taking into account the child’s social, school and extra-mural activities.

There are an infinite number of possibilities available when drawing up a parenting plan. Jobs, schools and a variety of other factors must still be taken into account. The bottom line is to find a plan that works for the whole family.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/child-contact/

http://www.divorcelaws.co.za/the-non-custodian-parent-and-contact.html

ADOPTING A CHILD IN SOUTH AFRICA

My Lawyer_Images-02Adoption is the legal act of permanently placing a child with a parent or parents other than the child’s birth mother or father.

A legal adoption order ends the parental rights of the birth mother and father and hands over the parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents.

There are 4 phases in the adoption process:

  1. Application
  • In South Africa, the only way in which you can legally adopt a child is by working through an accredited adoption agency, or with the assistance of an adoption social worker, functioning within the statutory accredited adoption system.
  • When working through an adoption agency, the process usually starts with the prospective adoptive parents submitting an application to the agency.
  • Each agency has its own set of requirements – it’s a good idea to phone the particular agency to get their set of criteria before you actually apply in writing.
  1. Screening process
  • All prospective adoptive parents are required to undergo a screening and preparation process. This normally involves:
    • orientation meetings,
    • interviews with a social worker,
    • full medical examinations,
    • marriage and psychological assessments,
    • home visits, and
    • police clearance and the checking of references.
  • The screening process allows social workers to get to know prospective adopters as a family, their motivation to adopt and their ability to offer a child a warm, loving and stable home.
  1. Waiting list
  • Once the screening process is complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. Applicants have their own ideas and wishes about the child they wish to adopt.
  • They can decide about the age and sex of the baby or child they would like to adopt, and adoption agencies will try to meet those personal expectations.
  1. Placement
  • The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process, carried out through the Children’s Court.
  • Once the child has been with the new parents for a period of time, and the social worker has assessed the adoption to be in the best interests of the child, the adoption is finalised through the Children’s Court.
  • The child then becomes the legal child of the adoptive parents as if the child was born to them and has all the same rights as a biological child.

An adopted child is regarded as the biological child of the adoptive parent/s and all parental rights and responsibilities his/her biological parent/s or previous legal guardian/s had will be terminated. The adoptive child takes the surname of the adoptive parent/s (unless the Children’s Court states otherwise). An adoption will not affect the adoptive child’s rights to property s/he obtained before the adoption.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

References:

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/quicklaw-guides/adoption/

https://www.westerncape.gov.za/service/adopting-child

WHAT ARE PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES?

My Lawyer_Images-03The rights and responsibilities of a parent is set out in the Children’s Act 38 of 2008 (the “Children’s Act”) and can be defined as a complex set of rights, duties and responsibilities which have to be performed in the best interest of the child. These rights and responsibilities include the following elements namely: caring of the child, maintaining contact with the child, to act as a guardian over the child and to contribute to the maintenance of the child.

Both parents of a child have equal rights and responsibilities, but when they are not living together, specific rights and responsibilities may be given to one parent, either by court order or agreement between the parents.

Biological mothers

 The biological mother, whether she is married or not, has full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of her child. She attains those rights solely on the fact that she has given birth to the child.

 Married biological fathers

 The biological father has full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child if:

  1. he was married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s conception and birth;
  2. he is married to the child’s mother; or
  3. they are or were married at any time after the birth.

 Unmarried biological fathers

 Despite the increased recognition of the beneficial role that fathers can play in the lives of their children, the Children’s Act still does not confer automatic, inherent parental rights on biological fathers in the same way it does for mothers. According to the Act, an unmarried biological father will have automatic parental rights and responsibilities only if:

  1. at the time of the child’s birth, he was living in a life partnership with the mother, i.e. they were living in a de facto husband and wife relationship and chose not to get married;
  2. regardless of whether he was living with the mother or not, he consents to be identified as the father of the child or applies for an amendment to be effected on the birth certificate that he be registered as the biological father of the child in terms of the Births and Deaths Registration Act, or pays damages in terms of customary law; and
  3. he contributes or has attempted to contribute in good faith to the upbringing of the child within a reasonable period, and has paid or attempted to pay maintenance.

If there is a dispute between the biological parents over any of the above criteria, then the question of whether the father has parental responsibilities and rights must be referred for mediation to a family advocate, social worker or other suitably qualified person. Mediation is the process whereby the participants, together with the assistance of a neutral party, systematically isolate disputed issues in order to develop options, consider alternatives and reach a consensual settlement that will accommodate their needs.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Reference:

http://www.divorcelaws.co.za/unmarried-parents-and-the-law.html

https://www.legalwise.co.za/help-yourself/legal-articles/parental-rights-and-responsibilities/

http://sdfa.co.za/articles/parental-rights-and-responsibilities-over-a-child-in-south-africa/

SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN’S RIGHTS DURING DIVORCE

A3Divorce and the resulting challenges regarding child custody and the responsibilities of parents can be an ugly and difficult process. This is especially true of the children whose emotional and physical wellbeing would have to be taken into account during the entire process. However, the office of the Family Advocate offers an efficient and free service with the wellbeing of the child in mind.

The Family Advocate (FA) manages disputes regarding the responsibilities and custody of children during and after a divorce. The point of the FA is to protect the rights of children and ensure that their best interests are taken into account when it comes to their custody and the parent’s responsibilities. The office of the FA is not just one person but consists of lawyers and social workers who all assist in getting the best outcome for the child/children.

What can the Family Advocate do?

Section 28(2) of the Constitution says, “A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child”. This forms the basis of the FA’s role in disputes.

The Family Advocate has the ability to:

  1. Institute an enquiry so as to be able to furnish the court with a report and recommendation on any matter concerning the welfare of the minor child;
  2. Appear at the trial or hearing of any relevant application;
  3. Adduce any available evidence; and
  4. Cross-examine witnesses giving evidence at such trial or hearing of an application.

*According to Mediation in Certain Divorce Matters Act (Act 24 of 1987)

The Children’s Act 2005 (Act 38 of 2005) has also made mediation by the FA compulsory for all parties involved in parental rights and responsibility disputes over children born out of wedlock.

What’s the point of the Family Advocate?

The FA has many advantages when there is a dispute over children. The FA can change the parental rights and responsibilities agreements of the parents without the need to go to court. A court will also take into consideration a report by the FA before making any decision on the child, they are even required by law to do this. Furthermore, a registered parental rights and responsibilities agreement would be considered the same as a court order. The office of the FA also allows for the children involved to express their point of view and desires. In order to ensure the best for the child/children, the FA will work together with social workers, psychologists and other professionals when dealing with disputes.

Reasons to see the Family Advocate

  1. The parties disagree about how to contact or care for a child.
  2. They want to draft, register or change their parental rights and responsibilities agreement.
  3. Disputes about whether an unmarried father of a child born out of wedlock fulfils the requirements making him eligible for the full parental rights and responsibilities of the child.

A court may also order the FA to provide a report on what is best for the children involved in a dispute. Altogether, the FA’s goal is to ensure the child gets the best out of a divorce process and that their rights are protected. They can not only help in disputes, but also provide a comfortable environment and process for what can be a stressful time for the children involved.

Reference:

“The Office of the Family Advocate”. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/FMAdv/ on 13/05/2016.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

WHEN AN ABUSED CHILD NEEDS HELP

A4There are instances when a child may need help or protection. An abused or neglected child, for example, might need intervention with the state’s help. Fortunately, the Children’s Act, 2005 (Act 38 of 2005) gives effect to the rights of children contained in our constitution. These rights are carried out by the Children’s Court, which is expressly concerned with the care and safety of children (under 18).

The Children’s Act differs from previous legislation about children and covers other aspects relating to their rights. For instance, the Act gives effect to The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction and of Inter-Country Adoption. It also makes new provisions for the adoption of children.

What is The Children’s Act?

The Children’s Act deals specifically with matters regarding children’s care and protection and should not be confused with The Child Justice Act, 2008, which deals with children who are accused of committing an offence. The Children’s Court plays an important role in the practise of the Children’s Act.

The Children’s Court deals with all matters relating to the physical and emotional wellbeing of a child. Some of these include:

  1. the protection and well-being of a child
  2. the care of, or contact with a child
  3. support of a child
  4. prevention or early intervention services
  5. maltreatment, abuse, neglect, degradation or exploitation

Children’s Courts have the responsibility to make decisions about abandoned or neglected children and also take care of children needing protection or care. The Children’s Court won’t make judgements in criminal cases involving children, however, a social worker may remove a child from their guardians or parents if it’s in the child’s best interest. To find a Children’s Court is not very hard as every Magistrate’s Court in South Africa is also a Children’s Court. The magistrate also acts as the presiding officer of the Court.

The Act and parental rights and responsibilities

The Children’s Act not only deals with children but also parents and guardians concerning their rights and responsibilities. Some of the parental rights and responsibilities includes caring for the child, maintaining contact with the child, acting as the child’s guardian and contributing to the maintenance of the child.

Going to the Children’s Court

There are some people who have a social responsibility and requirement to go to a Children’s Court if they suspect a case of child abuse. These people include teachers, social workers, lawyers, ministers of religion and nurses. On the other hand, any person may go to the Children’s Court clerk if they are concerned about a child’s safety and protection. You do not have to be the parent or guardian of the child to raise an issue with the clerk. A child also has the right to go to the Court with a matter as long as it’s within the jurisdiction of that particular Court.

The Court has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, which is designed to make it as comfortable as possible for children. When the court makes a decision on what to do with a child it uses the guidance of a report from a social worker. The report highlights the best interests of the child. The Court will take into consideration the social worker’s suggestions. The Court order is not permanent and will usually lapse after a two-year period.

Reference:

Anderson, AM. Dodd, A. Roos, MC. 2012. “Everyone’s Guide to South African Law. Third Edition”. Zebra Press.

Justice.gov.za. The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Family Law, The Children’s Act, 2005 (Act 38 of 2005). [online] Available at: http://www.justice.gov.za/vg/children/ [Accessed 19/05/2016].

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Differences between public and private schools in South Africa

A1_BIn terms of Section 5 (3) (a) of the South African Schools Act No 84 of 1996 no learner may be refused admission to a public school on the grounds that his or her parents is unable to pay or has not paid the school fees as determined by the Governing Body. However, this Act does not make provision for independent “private” schools with regard to fees.

Section 5 (3) (a) of the South African Schools Act No 84 of 1996 has incorporated Chapter 2 Section 29 (1) (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996 in terms of which everyone has the right to basic education. Therefore no child can be sent home or refused to participate in certain activities or sports due to arrears school fees[1]. Public schools must provide for equitable criteria and procedures for the total, partial or conditional exemption of parents who are unable to pay school fees.[2] This means that should a parent find themselves retrenched during the third term of school, they can apply for subsidiary for the tuition of the last term and their child / children can continue their education.

The South African Schools Act[3] does not make provision for independent “private” schools. Private schools are governed by the Private Schools Act No 104 of 1986, which does not make any mention of arrears school fees and whether or not children are still allowed their right to basic education if their parents find themselves in a financial struggle. The Private Schools Act focuses more on the regulations of a school itself and how to become a private school.

The problem relating to this is the fact that the children suffer. At the time of entering their children into a private school, the parents are financially stable. However, what happens if a parent suddenly find him/herself retrenched? Furthermore, the above problem is aggravated by the fact that private schools are struggling to obtain funds from the Government for subsidies. Race-based inequalities in subsidies to independent schools have been eliminated since 1994. Since then, subsidy levels have differed somewhat per province. But extreme pressure on the non-salary components of provincial education budgets, especially in 1997/98 and 1998/99, has resulted in a sharp decline in the per learner value of independent school subsidies, and considerable uncertainty as to the future trend of independent school funding by provincial education authorities.[4]

[1] South African Schools Act No 84, Section 41 (7)

[2] South African Schools Act No 84 of 1996, Section 39(2) (b)

[3] South African Schools Act No 84 of 1996

[4] South African Schools Act No 84 of 1996: Rules and Regulations

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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