Co-parenting during Covid-19 - This is what we know so far

Felicity Guest is the founder of Child Maintenance Difficulties South Africa (CMDSA), and through the organisation assists primary caregivers by empowering them to know their rights regarding child maintenance laws, and when seeking financial support through the South African Maintenance Courts.

Whilst these are extraordinary times it is very disappointing and unacceptable that Family Matters have not been given the same serious considerations by Government considering that it affected millions of parents and children.

There was no clarity on co-parenting in all the Directives issued by the Chief Justice, Court Operations and Protocol was clarified and it was stated that Maintenance, Children and Domestic Violence courts would be operational.

There were conflicting opinions amongst the Legal fraternity in the interpretation of the impact of the Disaster Act.

Without any clear directives as yet regarding co-parenting during these uncertain times, it is now clear that children will not be able to move between parents.

Parents around the country have had no idea what to prepare for up to this point and been given conflicting advice.

Considering that in many cases co-parenting is conflicted this has been an anxious period and with less than 24 hours to shutdown we finally have clarity. We are waiting for Directives to be issued to during the course of the day. 

Restriction of movement as Gazetted on the 25th March 2020 11 B (1)(a) For the period of lockdown -

(i) Every person is confined to his or her place of residence, unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency, life-saving, or chronic medical attention:

Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu is quoted in her speech: The support on the suspension of the custody and visitation rights, we request that children remain with the primary custody holder and should only be moved with exception circumstances (no children should be moved for the duration of the lockdown).

Minister Bheki Cele in an interview on Radio Jacaranda this morning said: Parents who share custody of children should understand that the children should not be transported from one parent to the other unless it is for medical reasons “we are living in extraordinary times and it is what it is.”

Children have rights, parents have responsibilities and right now the biggest responsibility is to protect our children from contracting the virus.

This is out of individual parents control and it is going to be really tough for parents not to have physical contact with their children.

Physical distancing to prevent the spread of the virus is the most important objective right now; as a nation we have a collective responsibility to flatten the curve.

Parents who have had to forfeit their contact time should be able to make up this lost time once this pandemic is over.

Parents who do not have physical contact with their children should have increased access via phone calls, video calls and messenger, for some parents this is going to be very difficult due to not having access or affordability. 

Parents are cautioned that their behaviour and decisions during this period can be used in any future litigation; abuse has many guises and is a criminal offence.

This is unchartered territory and people are anxious, be considerate to each other.

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