Divorce Attorney Cape Town

Divorce and Parenting Plans


The Children’s Act offers parenting plans as a method to regulate and assist parents to agree how to exercise their parental responsibilities and rights.

Section 33(1) of the Children’s Act provides that co-holders of parental rights and responsibilities may agree on a parenting plan that sets out the method and mode of how each parent will exercise his/her rights over the children. Parenting Plans must comply with the best interests of the child standard.

It frequently happens that one parent will experience difficulties in exercising his/her parental rights, with the other parent deliberately blocking contact or frustrating it where no parenting plan exist or where a court order was made years ago that did not keep track or became outdated with the changes in our family law over the years. Where parents do struggle or where they experience difficulties to exercise these rights, mediation in terms of the Children’s Act is a prerequisite. The Act stipulates that an aggrieved parent must first seek the assistance of the Family Advocate, social worker or psychologist. Alternatively they must go to mediation facilitated by a social worker or other suitably qualified person.

The Children’s Act discourages parents from approaching the court as a first resort when they experience difficulties in exercising their rights and responsibilities.  The Act use the word “must” in section 33(5) which means that parties’ are compelled to refer to seek assistance or mediation prior to embarking on court action. The Act also lays down certain guidelines concerning parenting plans, for example that it must be in writing and that it must be registered with a Family Advocate Office or made an order of court. To register a parenting plan at the office of the Family Advocate a prescribed form must be used.

Once a parenting plan is in place it may be amended, suspended or terminated. Where a plan was registered at the office of the Family Advocate the parties must apply to the Family Advocate Office to amend, suspend or terminate the plan and in the event that it was made an order of court an application should be made to court to vary the plan.

One must distinguish between Parental Responsibilities and Rights Agreements (PRR) made in terms of section 22 and Parenting Plans in terms of section 33 of the Act. PRR plans are usually entered into where a mother or other person comes to an agreement with the biological father of the child and encompass an agreement with a party that did not have rights in terms of section 21.  Such an agreement confers rights and the agreement is typically between unmarried parents.

Parenting Plans on the other hand are usually entered into by co-holders of PRR Plans, the agreement delineates existing rights and an attempt to agree is a prerequisite in going to court. Typically, such a plan is entered into by divorcing parents and an unmarried father who does qualify in terms of the Act.

Section 35 of the Act contains a provision with its aim to prevent a parent from frustrating the other parent’s rights. If a person under whose care a child is refuse contact with the other parent who is also a co-holder and do so contrary to a court order or registered plan, such person could be found guilty of a criminal offence. Such person can be liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year. A person, with whom a child lives, must also notify the other parent of a change of address. Failure could result in a criminal offence.

About Divorce Attorney Cape Town:

Bertus Preller is a Divorce Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

Divorce and Child Abduction in South Africa


DIVORCE AND CHILD ABDUCTION

As a divorce attorney I frequently get instructions to assist a parent whose child has been abducted by the other parent to another country. Frequently it happens that a child visits the other parent in a foreign country by consent between the parents only to find when the child has to return that the other parent wrongfully keeps the child there. International child abduction also happens when one parent takes a child from the country where he or she usually lives to another country without the consent of the other parent.

The Hague Convention on International Child Abduction is applicable to matters because of its definition of “rights of custody”. The Hague Convention is broadly worded to also cover for situations where the child has been abducted by a person other than his/her parent.

The Hague Convention only applies if countries ratified the convention. South Africa ratified the Hague Convention and as such it is part of our domestic law. Also section 275 of the South African Children’s Act proclaims that the Hague Convention is part of South African law. The Hague Convention is only applicable to children under the age of 16 years.

The removal or retention of child is unlawful where it breaches the right of contact (custody) that a person obtained in terms of a court order in the area where the child was habitually resident. In order to succeed with an application under the Hague Convention a party must be able to show that a parent is exercising the custody rights at the time of removal or retention of a minor child. When it comes to making a decision to remove a child from the country where he is usually habitant both guardians (parents) must consent, thus if one parent removes a child without the consent of the other parent, the Hague Convention will apply.

If there is a delay in the proceedings of returning the child back to the country where he is usually habitant for more than a year after the proceedings have been lodged, the court is not bound to return the child if he or she has settled into a new environment. In such a case the court will consider the best interests of the child; although a court under a Hague Convention application does not do so. Regulations in the Hague Convention determine that such a matter must be concluded within 6 weeks after commencement of the court proceedings.

There are also exceptions to the rule of peremptory return of a child, namely:

  • Where the person does not have rights to custody or if the parent had consented in the removal of the child.
  •  Where there is a grave risk that the child would be exposed to psychological or physical harm if being returned.
  •  If the child objects being returned and is of such an age and maturity that it is inappropriate to take account of his/her views.

About the Author

Bertus Preller is a Divorce Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Bertus Preller & Associates in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried father’s rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

New Research Gives Insights into Guidance about Parenting Plans


New Research Gives Insights into Guidance about Parenting Plans

Is shared parenting the best arrangement for kids? Should infants and toddlers be shuttled between two homes? Is it important to include children in decisions about care and contact? These are just some of the difficult questions facing parents, attorneys, judges, mediators and others who are involved in navigating children through the divorce process.

Recently, several numbers of reports have been released that summarize the state of the research on parental issues. The results are surely not simple, but they provide some really helpful insights into what parents need to consider in managing parenting following a divorce.

Marsha Pruett, Smith College of Social Work, provides a general set of guidelines for children at different ages. She notes that children at different ages have varying needs and differing abilities to navigate through and cope with the variations in changing families. She notes further that equal time in parenting is not always the best arrangement for families. She also reminds parents, “It is the quality of time and parenting – not the quantity – that is more highly related to closeness between parent and child.” According to her, “The absolute amount of parenting time should be emphasized less than a plan that allows for a schedule that enables both parents to feel and act engaged and responsible.”

A particularly challenging divorce situation is one in which the children are very young–infants and toddlers. There has been much debate about the appropriateness of overnight stays and shared parenting arrangements in general. Jennifer McIntosh has been studying this issue that provides a good summary of the research evidence to date. There is lots of evidence that parenting during the first 3 years of a child’s life is critical to health development, particularly in how child manage their emotions and cope with stress. McIntosh’s summary of the current evidence is that children in the first 3 years of life should not involve overnight care in two homes. She also notes that young children’s attachment to the non-residential parent can be achieved through regular contact that involves “warm, lively, attuned caregiving.” In short, children’s development depends less on whether or not children sleep in two homes, than on the quality of the parenting.

There are three primary ways parents can help insure that their children have fewer difficulties following divorce writes, JoAnne Pedro-Carroll, “the degree and duration of hostile conflict, the quality of parenting provided over time, and the quality of the parent-child relationship.” She summarizes the important research findings that focus on each of these factors. She emphasized that it is important for children to have rules and routines that give them a sense of security. Likewise, they need to know that they are loved and cared for by hearing the words, but also by actions that reflect active and engaged talk and play. And they will thrive better when their parents manage their own strong emotions and conflicts. She recommends that parents reframe their relationship to a more business-like model in which the goal is the well-being of the children. For high-conflict parents she describes a model of parallel parenting that can best serve children and minimize conflict.

Source: Huffington Post

International abduction of minor children a South African Law Perspective


International abduction of minors a South African Perspective

Article 3(b) of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (1980), which is incorporated into South African law by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction Act 72 of 1996 (the Act), provides that the removal or retention of a child is to be considered wrongful if, among others, at the time of the removal or retention, the rights of custody were actually exercised, either jointly or alone, or would have been so exercised but for the removal or retention.

In terms of article 13(b), the authority of the requested state is not bound to order the return of the child if the person, institution or other body in the other state that opposes the return or retention establishes that there is a grave risk that his return would expose the child to physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation. In Central Authority of the Republic of South Africa and Another v LG 2011 (2) SA 386 (GNP) the second applicant, the father, and the respondent, the mother, were married and living together with their minor child in the United Kingdom (UK). After several heated arguments the parties agreed to divorce and that the respondent would return to her native South Africa with the child. Alleging that the respondent agreed to return with the minor child to the UK after attending a wedding in South Africa and as she failed to do so she had unlawfully retained the child in this country, the second applicant (with the help of the first applicant, the Central Authority of South Africa) applied for a court order for the return of the child to the UK. The application was dismissed with costs.

Molopa-Sethosa J said the fact that the second applicant was prepared to stay away from the minor child, who was only 17-months-old at the time, for at least six months when the child was in South Africa with the respondent (who was during that time considering whether reconciliation with the second applicant was possible) was not indicative of a close bond between the second applicant and the child. Furthermore, the child would be exposed to the risk of psychological harm if he were to be returned to the second applicant who did not have the best interests of the child at heart. The fact that since the child had been in South Africa his health improved tremendously was of the utmost importance and could not be ignored.

Best interests and views of a child in international abduction matters:

In Central Authority v MR (LS Intervening) 2011 (2) SA 428 (GNP) the court dealt with the best interests of a minor child and her views in an international child abduction matter. After the death of her mother the minor child of some nine years lived with her biological father in Belgium. Subsequently the two relocated to Los Angeles, in the United States of America (USA), because of the father’s professional commitments.

There the two lived with the father’s new wife. After the child visited her maternal grandmother in Hoedspruit, Limpopo, the grandmother prevented the minor child returning to the father in Los Angeles and instituted an ex parte application to keep the child in this country. She sought, pending the final outcome of the family advocate’s investigation, full parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the minor. Meanwhile, the father sought the return of the child to the USA. The court dismissed the father’s application, but ordered the grandmother to pay costs because of the unacceptable way she instituted ex parte proceedings and for not being candid with the court.

Shared Parenting


What is Shared Parenting?

“An arrangement whereby children freely enjoy the love and nurture of both parents and their wider family following separation or divorce …it does mean that sufficient time is spent with each parent for the child to view each parent as a parent rather than an aunty or uncle.”

(ASP definition of Shared Parenting as adopted by CAFCASS in 2004)

Shared parenting is an arrangement after divorce wherein both parents continue to have a strong positive presence in their children’s lives. Shared parenting entails that a child spend equal or significant amounts of time with each parent.

As a divorce and family law attorney I see a huge shift towards a more collaborative approach between parents to share equal time with their children after divorce.

Shared parenting arrangements may differ to suit various situations. Time between each parent may be split 50/50 or the children may live with one parent for example, four days every week and the rest of the week with another parent.

After divorce, shared parenting is a preferred alternative to asking the children to choose where they want to live. Many children prefer shared parenting rather than the traditional arrangements. With shared parenting, the children still has the chance to have a meaningful relationship with both of their parents.

There are many benefits to shared parenting. It allows a child to have both his/her parents present in his/her life and although the child has to switch between two homes, shared parenting reassures the child that both parents care for them. This arrangement is more beneficial to a child than when they live with only one parent because often the latter creates a distance both physical and emotional between the child and the “absent” parent.

Studies show that children of divorced couples who retain meaningful relationships with each parent are the ones who find it easier to deal with the breakup of their parents. Research also shows shared parenting is possible despite intense conflict between parents if the parents focus on what is best for their children.

Almost half of the children in the U.S. are deprived of the lifelong benefits of two parents who share the parenting throughout the first 18 years of their children’s lives.

The Benefits of Shared Residence and Shared Parenting

  • Removes the need for a child to choose between the parents
  • Allows both parents to love and nurture the child in much the same way as they did prior to parental separation and therefore promotes the continuation of family life
  • The child does not feel rejected by the non-resident parent and does not blame himself
  • Confirms to the child that he still has two parents who love and wish to care for him
  • The child derives emotional and psychological security from having two fully engaged parents
  • The child is no longer brought up to believe that the resident parent is the real, better or main parent and that the non-resident parent is a lesser parent or to be rejected
  • Re-affirms the responsibility of each parent to care and provide for the child
  • Sends a clear message to the resident parent, schools, doctors and the courts that both parents are equal and that all decisions relating to the child should be based on this principle
  • The child is more likely to grow up in a well-adjusted manner
  • Reduces parental hostility as it requires both parents to negotiate and make joint decisions

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in most sectors of the law and 13 years as a practicing attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com and is frequently quoted on Family Law issues in newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Parenting Plans, Parental Responsibilities and Rights, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters, international divorce law, digital rights, media law and criminal law.

Bertus Preller

B.Proc; AD Dip L Law

Family Law Attorney

A:1st Floor, 56 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town, 8000

O: +27 (0) 21 422 1323

F: 086 572 8373

C: +27 (0) 83 443 9838

E: bertus@divorceattorney.co.za; W:  www.divorceattorney.co.za; Twitter: www.twitter.com/edivorce;

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Children Custody Matters, what we can learn from Charlie Sheen


As an attorney I often advise clients regarding what they should and should not do during a contested divorce where care and contact of the children or custody as we know it is at stake. Here are some important lessons learned from the hours of Charlie Sheen interviews attracting media attention the past few weeks.

Call me old fashioned, but a judge typically do not let 2-year-old twins return to a house where the dad is having a 2 ½ -some.

If you are going to partake in “extracurricular activities” during a custody dispute, at least find a hotel, there are lots of these in South Africa. It is much easier explaining to a judge this charge on a credit card, as opposed to justifying why this behaviour is appropriate in the home.

When determining child custody issues, South African courts have accepted through the years the “Best Interest of the Child” standard. This means that courts are free to consider whatever facts they believe to be relevant when making a child custody determination. This standard is based upon the legal theory “in loco parentis,” which basically means that the court stands “in the place of the parent” when asked to determine a child custody matter. Accordingly, the court takes the place of both the parents when determining what is best for the children in the circumstances.

In the Sheen matter, the analysis will be slightly more complicated. Sheen and Brooke Mueller recently signed a custody agreement or as we know it in South Africa a parenting plan. By signing this document, both the parents essentially stated that they believed the terms of the agreement will be in the best interest of the children. Mueller has asked the court to set aside the recent custody agreement because of a change of circumstances (e.g. Sheen’s recent strange and disturbing behaviour), and because the change would be in the best interest of the children. Because of all the interviews that Sheen has given, there is no shortage of proof that Sheen has new or exasperated issues (whether it be manic episodes, bipolar symptoms, drug use or just poor parenting decisions), and that the agreement granting Sheen unsupervised visitation rights should be re-examined.

At the very least, Sheen’s decision to expose the two-year-old twins to his two so-called “goddesses” will be seen as an important change of circumstances to cause the court to make a thorough analysis of what future care and contact arrangements is in the best interest of the children.

A Porn star is not a qualification to be a nanny.

If you are wealthy and fighting custody battles rather hire someone akin to Mary Poppins. She would be a great witness at trial and people may even love the accent.

Admitting taking substantial amounts of cocaine in the past months, when you claim that your wife has a sobriety problem; it’s almost like the pot calling the kettle “Charlie Sheen.”

Courts appreciate when a parent admits that there is a problem and attempts to get help for that problem and Judges will recognize that people are fallible. If a parent, such as in Sheen’s case goes on national television to proclaim that he is not fallible and in fact has tiger blood, he has not helped his case.

If you have already shot your fiancé and threatened your second wife, been arrested on a violent charge, you probably shouldn’t threaten to kill your current wife during a custody case.

Violence against the other parent will be considered when determining custody and visitation arrangements. This is because courts do recognize that a child’s psyche is significantly affected when watching or learning that there have been acts of domestic violence between his or her parents. If a parent threatens (or is violent against) the other parent, courts may surmise that this parent may threaten (or become violent against) the child in the future.

If we have learned nothing else from Napoleon, you probably shouldn’t fight a two-front war at the same time.

If you have your hands full with a custody battle with wife number three, maybe now is not the time to make threatening and derogatory statements against wife number two. I know it is a recession, but your divorce attorneys may not be that hard up for work.

So what should Sheen do now? The answer is clear….do what is in the best interest of the children.

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town who deals with divorce matters all over South Africa and has more than 20 years experience in law and 13 years as a practising attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters and international divorce law.

Parenting after Divorce, helping your children to cope with divorce


Parenting after Divorce

Following divorce, the role of a spouse ends, yet the role of a parent continues.

The following questions may be helpful –

  • How can I be involved in my child’s life?
  • How do I manage parenting if my ex spouse and I can’t get along?
  • How can I get along with my ex spouse well enough to parent our children together?

Co-parenting means that both parents play an active role in their children’s day-to-day lives. A vital key to successful co-parenting arrangements is how well the parents function. What works best for some divorced parents may not work well for others.

Research has shown that benefits of co-parenting include:

  • Children develop stability.
  • Children continue relationships with both parents.
  • Children are less likely to feel torn between their parents.
  • Children are less likely to feel abandoned.
  • Children are less likely to feel they have to meet the social and emotional needs of their parents.

In every divorce, parents must recognize the importance of finishing what they started namely raising their children. Divorce is extremely difficult for most children. They benefit when they have relationships with both parents and they tend to adjust better to divorce when:

  • Parents don’t place their children in the middle of their conflicts.
  • Both parents respond to the needs of their children.
  • They have a good relationship with both of their parents.
  • Parents don’t argue, especially when their children are present.

Problems between parent and child may result from problems between parents

Problems may develop if parents send messages to each other through their children. Problems also arise when a parent talks negatively about the other parent. Children may feel guilty and unsure of their parents’ love when they’re caught in the middle. If a parent asks about a former spouse, children may report that things are fine, even if they’re not. Or children may say things to make one of the parents feel bad. Again, don’t use your children by putting them in the middle. If you want to know something about your ex-spouse, ask that person yourself.

Parents often disagree on how to discipline their children. When mothers and fathers have different rules, children may not respect either set of limits, or they may use the differences to gain power over parents. For example, a mother may change a curfew and the daughter may say to her father, “Mom lets me stay out until midnight.” It’s important to have clear rules and boundaries in your household. Try not to feel guilty if your rules are different than those of your ex-partner. If you are comfortable with the rules you have set, stick with them. When it seems you and your former-spouse can’t agree on certain issues, it helps to restate common goals.

Helping children adjust

Children can adjust to a variety of living patterns, including living in two homes. How well children adjust depends on whether parents can minimize their conflicts, stop arguing and focus on their children’s needs. When parents can’t agree, tell the children there will be separate rules in each home. It may be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that your children need you to be a strong, positive influence in their lives.

The following books can be recommended on the subject of parenting:

Helping your kids cope with divorce the sandcastles way.

The author will empower you to contain your children’s anxiety and feelings of insecurity and to re-establish a measure of equilibrium as effectively as possible. Using loads of case studies from her extensive files, Anne highlights the following: How, when and where to inform your children in an age-appropriate and honest way; Emotional support for you, the parent; Guidance on effective parenting skills to help your children. The how to of active listening, anger management and clear, firm and consistent boundary setting – all with practical examples.

This revised and updated second edition features ideas from the latest research, more information on long-distance parenting, dealing with the courts, and working with a difficult co-parent. “Parents argue a lot before a divorce,” says Dr. Stahl. “If they continue to argue after the divorce, their children will suffer.” Stahl knows parents are not perfect, and he uses that knowledge to show imperfect parents how to settle their differences in the best interests of the children. Often required reading in court-mandated divorce education classes.

Invaluable parenting advice on how to coparent. during and after divorce, from a sought-after expert on parenting topics. As a court-appointed child custody evaluator for 15 years, Dr. Peter Favaro is uniquely qualified to write this must-have guide for parents going through divorce. A child psychologist, he understands the effects divorce can have on families, especially when difficult exes, lawyers, visitation schedules, and other issues directly affect the child. Favaro addresses 50 essential topics in. short, easy-to-read chapters, including 100 dos and donts that will make things easier on your child–and better for your family.

Compiled by:

Bertus Preller is a Divorce and Family Law Attorney in Cape Town and has more than 20 years experience in law and 13 years as a practising attorney. He specializes in Family law and Divorce Law at Abrahams and Gross Attorneys Inc. in Cape Town. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com and on the expert panel of Law24.com. His areas of expertise are Divorce Law, Family Law, Divorce Mediation, Custody (care and contact) of children, same sex marriages, unmarried fathers rights, domestic violence matters and international divorce law.

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