Yesterday, the 7th of April 2020, the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu amended her directions that she had previously given with regard to the movement of children between parents.
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 the one parent to the other, then those children can, from today, move between parents.
What 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. 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 Corona virus and therefore the directions specifically provides that there is no person who is known to have come into contact with, or is reasonably suspected, to have come into contact with, a person known to have contracted, or reasonably suspected to have contracted the Corona virus in the household to which the child or children is to move. 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 lock down period has ended.
In order for the children to be moved between parents, the parent should have with him 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. 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 Judgements 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 this declared disaster and I would not advise parents to travel across municipal and or provincial borders in this regard.
If you have any uncertainty in this regard, you are more than welcome to contact our offices on our emergency number.