Divorce Attorney Cape Town

Act like an adult when you divorce, not like a child!


It is well understood that the single most damaging thing for children of divorce is exposure to on-going conflict between the parents. It makes every transition fraught and difficult, and forces the child to take sides on things he/she should not have to take sides on. It pushes the child into painful loyalty conflicts, and often causes chronic anxiety states in children. Exposure to on-going conflict is also commonly associated with problems in the child’s own relationships when he/she grows up.

It’s a common assumption that children are negatively affected by their parents’ divorce, but a new divorce study shows that parental conflict and a lack of co-parenting are actually the true culprits when it comes to harming a child’s mental health.

According to psychologists at the University of Basque Country, divorce in itself isn’t the issue when it comes to a child’s long- and short-term problems associated with parents breaking up. The real issue when it comes to children and divorce are the presence of fighting parents, family instability, and family conflict.

The study followed over 400 families through the various stages of divorce. Throughout marital issues, separation and divorce, children were observed for signs of depression, anxiety, behavioral issues, and other common issues associated with divorce. Surprisingly, the study found that these problems only surfaced in cases where divorce was accompanied by other issues in the household, including parental conflict, changes in daily routine, and issues with co-parenting.

Separation and divorce is a traumatic event for children, regardless of their age.  When they’re told of the decision they have fears, worries and questions.  They wonder, Where will I live? Who will I live with? Do I have to leave? What about my friends? Will we still go on holidays? Will I get to see Dad? What about the dog? How much time will I spend with people? Can I still have lessons, hockey, rugby… The questions speak volumes on children’s interests’ and their wellbeing.

Conflict between parents can have a devastating effect on children during the divorce process, particularly during the time immediately before and after the divorce. Witnessing conflict can be confusing to the children because they love both parents and are generally torn in their loyalties to each of them.

While it is often difficult, to shield children from all parental conflict, it is of utmost importance to do so. Parents must always agree to put their children first by keeping them out of parental disagreements.

It is not uncommon to find that a custodial parent use the child as a weapon in the matrimonial combat and is sabotaging the contact and interaction of the non-custodial parent.  This is predominantly evident in high-conflict divorce cases where a parent might even go so far as to abduct the children to an overseas country, thereby alienating the relationship the other parent has with his/her children.

Of great concern, however, are the allegations one often hear of some lawyers making a practice of escalating the acrimony between divorcing / separating parents.

These practices occasionally include encouraging clients to make false claims of abuse, encouraging women to invoke violence as a way to ensure an advantage in parenting and financial disputes.  For instance, some unethical lawyers are encouraging clients to apply for protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 in order to frustrate the attempts by the non-custodial parent to see his or her children.

Untruthful allegations also enter divorce proceedings by way of lawyers who place allegations of criminal behaviour in affidavits, without substantiation from child welfare practitioners or police authorities and without consequence to the accusing parent or lawyer involved. It may be that lawyers acting in such a way are pretty few and far between, but they certainly are there.

Children are often surprised by their parents’ decision to divorce and some knew things were tense before their parents separated but they never expected them to divorce.  Children sometimes feel they have no say in the decision to get divorced, and they are left unsure about what to expect in the future.

Most families experience a significant drop in income after a divorce. Money that was once applied to one household now have to support two, and often a single mother earn less than a single father. It is often impossible to have the same lifestyle that the family enjoyed before the divorce. This is a common risk in divorced families because maintaining economic stability is clearly a protective factor for children.

Source: http://voices.news24.com/bertus-preller/2012/07/if-you-do-divorce-act-like-an-adult-for-the-sake-of-your-children

Bertus Preller

Famly Law Attorney

Abrahams and Gross Inc.

Twitter: bertuspreller

Tel:  021 422 1323

Regular Blog: http://www.divorceattorneys.wordpress.com

Divorce – What every woman should know


Divorce - What women should know
Divorce – What women should know

Making the decision to divorce is a tough one, and the chances are it’s followed by an even more traumatic lead-up to the divorce, it is like a roller-coaster on an emotional track.

Women are mostly in the dark when it comes to the financial affairs of her husband and women are encouraged to gather as much financial information about their husband’s financial affairs before the divorce proceedings commence, to establish the magnitude of the estate.

It is extremely important for any woman to know what’s going on in her husband’s financial affairs. It’s difficult when you don’t have access to his share portfolio or balance sheet, but one must reasonably expect to get an idea of financial affairs.

An attorney cannot negotiate on behalf of a spouse without knowing in advance what the estate is worth.

In many divorce settlements, the wife ends up seeing what the estate is worth only late in the divorce process.

16 Important points to consider in divorce:

  1. Make copies of your husband’s bank statements, credit card statements and get hold of the short-term insurance policies as well as copies of pension funds and retirement funds. This will provide input on the extent of assets available and the value of the estate.
  2. If you are married in community of property or out of community of property with the accrual you have to ask your attorney to build a clause into the settlement agreement to say if any assets that come to light after the divorce settlement, you will be entitled to 50% of those assets and the husband will have to pay the legal fees involved in the recovery process of those assets when they do come to light.
  3. A more accurate sense of assets will come to light if the divorce is contested as parties are required to disclose any information to do with financial affairs. In terms of the court rules the husband can be required to make full disclosure of his assets and liabilities and you will be able to obtain all financial information spanning over a period of 3 years or more, including bank statements, credit card statements, investments etc.
  4. Women are advised not to leave the matrimonial home if there are minor children involved, because it provides a sense of stability for the kids. It’s better for the husband to leave if the husband is not the primary caregiver. If a husband makes himself guilty of abuse, the wife can get a restraining order to evict him from the property under certain circumstances or restrain him to enter certain areas of the house.
  5. Where the parties are married in community of property the wife is entitled to half the pension or retirement annuity fund. In a marriage out of community with the accrual, the pension fund will be regarded as part of the husband’s assets for purposes of calculating the accrual that the wife will be entitled to.
  6. In terms of the Divorce Act, the wife (if married in community of property) can choose to ask for the pension fund money to be paid in cash, or transferred to a pension fund of her choice.  Normally pension funds pay out the wife’s portion in 3 to 6 months after the divorce.
  7. Make a list of your monthly income and expenses, as if you’re going to live on your own with your children. It’s important because you get situations where the wife is not working or earns much less than the husband and doesn’t have the money to fight a divorce battle.  She can bring an application pending a divorce, for interim maintenance, which means contributing maintenance before the divorce is finalised. She can also apply for contribution to her legal expenses. If interim-maintenance is granted and the husband does not comply with the court order, he is in contempt of court.
  8. In some instances the wife can apply for emergency monetary relief in the magistrate’s court pending the institution of an application for interim maintenance by utilizing the provisions of the domestic violence act because the husband has blocked the use of credit.
  9. Interim maintenance falls away once the divorce order is granted. There have been situations where the wife has been granted very favourable interim maintenance terms, so sometimes a divorce is stalled  in order to continue getting a hearty amount of money each month.
  10. The granting of interim maintenance in a Rule 43 application cannot be appealed. The only way the husband can minimize this is if he goes back to court and explains and proves that his financial situation has changed so much that he’s entitled to a reduction. But this does not happen easily.
  11. Many battles in a divorce surround the children. Normally the wife is the parent of primary residence and the husband the parent of alternate residence. Increasingly, there’s a shared parenting approach with children staying with the mother for a week and then the father for a week and each party takes care of the children during that period.  I see a lot of children used as a pawn. It is important to get a parenting plan in place as soon as possible, and register that with the family advocate and stipulate that if issues arise with parenting and the children the parties need to go to a psychologist or a social worker to facilitate contact.
  12. In matters where money is not fought over, it may make financial sense to go to one lawyer who can work for both parties. But a divorce that is acrimonious requires that each party needs a lawyer to assist.
  13. A few mediation organizations exist where people can see a mediator to resolve disputes, to settle with both parties. The mediator doesn’t have the authority to issue and award for damages but he can facilitate the settlement process. If an abusive husband is involved, mediation is unlikely to work.  But it can work if the divorce is not acrimonious. Normally the spouses have to pay the costs of a mediator 50/50. Sometimes this route can be more expensive than an uncontested divorce, depending on the amount of sessions that the parties have to attend.
  14. Where a couple owns a property together, they need to decide whether both parties want to keep the interest in the property, sell the property and split the proceeds, or whether one wants to buy out the other. The decision has financial implications because of transfer duties and tax.
  15. It’s important to consider instances where the husband has no real assets. An insurance policy should be taken out in the event that the husband passes away and there is no money to help cover maintenance, in case of his death.
  16. The decision to divorce is always a business decision. You need to look at what happens until the children turn 21 or becomes self supporting, that there’s maintenance, medical cover for them, a school education and whether it’s government or private school and tertiary education.

About the Author:

Bertus Preller is a Divorce Attorney at Maurice Phillips Wisenberg in Cape Town, a law firm that has been in existence since 1994 and has more than 30 years experience in most sectors of the law. He specializes in Family Law and Divorce Law in and handles divorce and family law matters across South Africa. Bertus is also the Family Law expert on Health24.com, he blogs regularly on news24.com and nuus24.com and has been quoted on Family Law issues in various newspapers such as the Sunday Times and Business Times and magazines such as Noseweek, Keur, Living and Loving, Longevity, You and Huisgenoot, and also appears frequently on the SABC television show 3 Talk. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high net worth individuals. 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.

Contact details

bertus@divorceattorney.co.za

O: +27 21 419 7115

Divorce – Don’t play chess by using your children as pawns


DIVORCE – Don’t play chess by using your children as pawns

This world is rife of parents using their children as pawns in the dirty game of divorce or where children are born out of wedlock. We have all heard of the old saying “no maintenance no kids” or “you left me so you won’t see your kids”. Parents don’t realise the damage they are doing in using their children as a means to get back at the other parent.

By isolating or alienating the children from the other parent is damaging not only to the other parent but even more damaging to the children. As a family law attorney I have seen cases where one parent will go to immeasurable lengths to isolate the other parent from building a parental relationship with his/her children, thereby depriving the children in the process of the only stability they may have left.

So often you hear about the mother that lays sexual molesting charges, with no substance against the father simply in an attempt to isolate the father from having a relationship with the children or a mother obtaining a Domestic Violence interdict against a father simply to interdict the father from having a relationship with his children. Although it seems to be mostly women that play this deadly game, there are also fathers who use their children as pawns against the mother. Unfortunately in battles of this sort there are also attorneys who fuel the battles on behalf of their clients and who somehow lose sight of what the best interests of the child really means. Depriving the other parent of a relationship with his/her children is possibly one of the most devious methods to ruin a solid society.

In terms of section 33 (2) of the Children’s Act parents who experience difficulties in exercising their parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child must, before seeking the intervention of a court, first seek to agree on a parenting plan. The section discourages co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights from approaching the court as a first resort when they experience difficulties in exercising those rights and responsibilities.  This section does not compel parents to enter into a parenting plan, it simply instructs them to attempt to agree on one. Looking at this section closely it seems that where one parent refuse to engage in such discussions the court may be approached for then an attempt to agree on a plan was made, even if it was doomed from the start.  Section 33(5) instructs a person to seek the assistance of a family advocate, social worker or psychologist, or mediation through a social worker or suitably qualified person in preparing a parenting plan. It is therefore clear that before approaching the court, a person must first seek such assistance. If the other party is not amenable to engage then obviously a court may be approached.

Section 35 of the Act criminalises the refusal to allow someone who has access or holds parental responsibilities and rights in terms of a court order or a parental responsibilities and rights agreement that has taken effect to exercise such access. It also criminalises prevention of the exercise such access. Punishment is either a fine or imprisonment of up to one year.

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 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 and magazines such as Noseweek, You and Huisgenoot, and also appeared on SABC television on the 3 Talk TV show. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high networth individuals.

 

Antenuptial Contracts – The most important contract in your lifetime


The Antenuptial or Prenuptial Contract is certainly one of the most important documents that any person will sign in his/her lifetime, well that is if you decide to tie the knot and get married.  Antenuptial agreements are often seen as a cold, harsh and unromantic sign that one’s partner is planning on the relationship ending in doom. Some people have no issues with them and see them as valuable protection for both parties while others might go as far as to call of their wedding if the idea surfaces.

A major problem however is that people somehow disregard the importance of the Antenuptial Contract and many embark on a marriage without due cognisance of the repercussions that might follow at a later stage, especially when the marriage end in the big D – divorce. Somehow many people merely see the Antenuptial Contract as a formality, something that needs to be signed prior to the wedding day, without realising the consequences of such an important legal instrument. The problem is that the Bride and Groom, concentrates more on the wedding ceremony, the dress, the honeymoon etc. and leaves the Antenuptial contract for that late minute meeting with an attorney just before the wedding day.

No one goes into a marriage contemplating a divorce but when you consider that the Antenuptial Contract governs what will happen to your assets and liabilities on divorce or death, it makes lots of sense that considerable thought should be given to concluding it and that its contents should be fully understood by all parties concerned. Unfortunately many people are more drawn into the eyes of their spouse prior to the marriage than to the importance of the wording of a proper Antenuptial Contract.

Marriage in Community of Property

Where you did not conclude an Ante nuptial Contract prior to your wedding day, you will automatically marry in community of property. ‘In community of property’ means that everything the couple own, and their debts, from before their marriage are put together in a joint estate. And everything they earn or buy after their marriage is also part of this joint estate. Any money or possessions belonging to either of the spouses at the time of the marriage, or acquired by them at any time thereafter, cease to be the private property of the one person and become part of a joint estate in which each of the partners has an equal, undivided share.

On termination of the marriage, the husband and wife are each entitled to a half-share of the joint estate and they are jointly liable for any liabilities. A major disadvantage is that if one partner becomes insolvent, the other is protected only if he or she owns property that does not form part of the joint estate. Everything in the joint estate will be attached and sold off to pay any creditors.

Marriage out of Community of Property

Each spouse retains his or her own assets and liabilities whether acquired before or during marriage. There is no sharing of profits and losses. Both spouses have full and independent contractual capacity. Upon death or divorce, each spouse keeps control over their own assets.

This clearly gives parties absolute independence of contractual capacity and protects the estates of each party against claims by the other party’s creditors. There is no provision for any sharing whatsoever.  A party who contributed to the other party’s estate whether in cash or otherwise would have a heavy onus to prove that he or she was entitled to anything from that party’s estate on dissolution of the marriage.

Where one party stays at home to raise children and does not contribute financially towards the marriage and the other spouse works and accumulates assets, the former may find herself with nothing and no claim to the assets of the latter.

The marriage is governed by a contract known as an ante nuptial contract which is concluded by the parties before the marriage. If the marriage occurred after 1 November 1984, the contract had to specifically exclude the system of accrual. In the absence of this exclusion the rules of accrual will automatically apply.

Marriage out of Community of Property with Inclusion of the Accrual System

In most cases the accrual system is, perhaps, the fairest marriage system for the majority of couples. Before the introduction of the accrual system in 1984, if prospective spouses chose to be married out of community of property, there was no form of sharing between them of what was built up during the marriage. The accrual system was introduced to remedy this.

The Matrimonial Property Act 88 of 1984 brought with it the “accrual” system which permits a form of sharing, consistent with a primary objective of marriage, but permitting retention of each party’s independence of contract and ability to retain their own unique separate estates.

“Accrual” means increase. The accrual system is a form of sharing of the assets that are built up during the marriage. The underlying philosophy in respect of the accrual system is that each party is entitled to take out the asset value that he or she brought into the marriage, and then they share what they have built up together. One spouse’s property cannot be sold to pay the other’s creditors if the other becomes insolvent – in contrast to the case where the parties are married in community of property.

It is of utmost importance that a party wishing to enter into an Ante Nuptial Contract must fully understand what it is they are signing. It is for this reason that a standard form contract cannot be used, that consultations cannot be held over the phone or by means of email and that, unfortunately.

The important features of an accrual marriage are in essence the following:

  • Each party retains his or her own estate. Each party may accumulate assets and incur liabilities without interference from or assistance of the other spouse.  The estate of each party is determinable separately.
  • The monetary value of the smaller estate is subtracted from the monetary value of the larger estate, the difference is split, and the party having the larger estate pays half of the difference between the two estates to the party with the smaller estate.
  • At dissolution of the marriage, the estate of each party is calculated by listing all assets, listing all liabilities, subtracting liabilities from assets and arriving at a net asset value.
  • In practical terms this amounts to a similar division to a marriage in community of property.  However there are certain crucial factors of an accrual marriage which add complexity and much more freedom of choice. When drafting the Ante Nuptial Contract, the parties can each decide to exclude certain assets.  The effect of excluding an asset will be that it does not feature on the asset statement at dissolution of the marriage and is completely excluded from the calculation. Assets which are not properly described can cause huge problems when the executor or the divorce attorney tries to decide what to do with it in calculating the net accrual value.
  • To exclude either a specific asset, or a commencement value, or both (which must be separate and not derived from the same asset), can effectively ensure that couples share only what they choose to share and keep separate any item or items, or values, which they do not believe it fair to share (for example something acquired before the relationship commenced).Parties not wishing to exclude specific assets may exclude a certain sum of money which is the agreed equivalent of assets which they do not wish to share, and which is termed a “commencement value”.

Excluded from the Accrual

Certain property belonging to either the husband or the wife may not be taken into account when the accruals are worked out:

  • Any damages awarded to either spouse for defamation or for pain and suffering;Any inheritances, legacies or gifts that either spouse has received during the marriage, unless the parties have agreed in their antenuptial contract to include these or the donor has stipulated their inclusion;
  • A donation made by one spouse to the other. This is not taken into account as part of either the giver’s or the receiver’s estate, with the result that the giver cannot recover part of what he or she gave and the receiver need not return any of it.

Calculating the Accrual

The accrual is calculated by subtracting the net asset value of his/her estate at the commencement of marriage from the net asset value of his/her estate at dissolution of the marriage.

Example:

If spouse C had a net asset value of R10 000.00 at the commencement of the marriage (his/her “initial value”) and a net asset value of R100 000.00 at dissolution of marriage (his/her “end value”) then the accrual to his/her estate is R90 000.00. If the initial value of the other spouse B was R20 000.00 and hi/her end value R200 000.00, it follows that the accrual to his/her estate is R180 000.00.

Net accrual is calculated by subtracting the “smaller” accrual from the “larger” accrual. In the above example: R180 000-00 – R90 000-00 = R90 000-00. In accordance with the Act, C (the spouse with the smaller accrual) acquires a claim against B (the spouse with the larger accrual) for one half of the net accrual, namely – R45 000.00.

If you do intend to get married, it is well worth your while to consult a reputable attorney, to discuss your particular requirements and ensure that you fully understand the application of the accrual system to your particular situation.

Conclusion

An Ante Nuptial Contract must be signed before the marriage and must be signed in the presence of a notary and two competent witnesses. The notary will then register the contract in the local registry of deeds.  If parties wish to conclude an Ante Nuptial Contract after their marriage it is necessary to launch an application to the High Court.

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 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 and magazines such as Noseweek, You and Huisgenoot. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high networth individuals. 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.

What Divorced Parents Can Learn From Their Children


As a divorce and family law attorney I am mostly involved in the relationships of my clients, whether during the divorce process or thereafter, when the spousal role evolve into a pure parental role. Although the spousal role comes to an end, the parental role of parents last for as long as the children are there. A recent article in the Huffington Post, written by Linda Lipshutz that was quite interesting, the story is below.

“Greg” knew he was in for it when he saw Susan standing at the front door, glaring at him. It was wishful thinking to believe he would come home to peace and quiet. The disagreements between Susan and his daughter, Lindsey had become quite ugly. The two hadn’t liked each other from the start. However, he and Susan had thought that once they were officially married, things would settle down. Sadly, the situation had deteriorated. Lindsey had made it clear she wasn’t interested in meeting her stepmother, even halfway. Susan was hurt and frustrated that her efforts to reach out to Lindsey had not been successful.

Ironically, our children are often more realistic about the challenges facing the remarriage than we are.

Young people may have no qualms about letting us know their objections. In many cases, they’re not happy about all the life changes they’ve endured and have no interest in making things work.

From the young people’s point of view, they didn’t have any say when their parents ended the marriage, and they certainly don’t feel any obligation to happily endorse a parent’s new romance and eventual nuptials. They may believe their feelings have not been sufficiently considered, and are understandably resentful.

Remarrying couples are often so eager for their children to embrace their new lives they become impatient and annoyed when their families don’t jump onboard with enthusiasm. They may push way too hard, further compounding the conflicts. There are many steps, however, that can be taken to ease the adjustment and head off irreparable damage.

The stepfamily is a new entity, which must incorporate the memories and experiences of the prior family constellations. Children, still reeling from the loss of comfort, familiarity and sense of security they may have felt in the original family, will often magnify the upheaval when they enter the new blended family unit.

After a divorce, grieving single parents often reach out to their children in a unique and powerful way. A child might bask in getting his parent’s undivided attention and may develop an elevated sense of importance and control. He may not want to relinquish this exalted position or give the new stepparent any clout.

The children often struggle to sort out a host of conflicting emotions — jealousy that their parent has feelings for this stranger, worry that the original family closeness might be compromised, and concern that accepting the stepparent would be disloyal. And, of course, accepting the new stepparent would require them to relinquish any remaining fantasies of reconciliation.

Now, more than ever, is the time for the adults to remind themselves that they are the adults, and that it will be important for them to take the high road, approaching the situation with empathy and a sense of humor. It is critically important to send a clear, but sensitive message to the young people that they are not being forced to like the new family members. They still remain in control of their feelings but, hopefully, will come to enjoy these relationships in time.

It should be clearly emphasized that the new family must be treated with respect and consideration. If the children sense their parents’ insecurities, they might be tempted to use this discomfort to their advantage. Consciously, or unconsciously, they may try to put a wedge in the new couple’s relationship. It must be crystal clear that they don’t have the power to sabotage the adult relationship.

Although challenging, it’s possible for parents to take the upper hand in rocky situations. First, they must pay attention to their moods and attitudes. Defensiveness and resentment could exacerbate an already tense environment. It takes maturity and inner strength to not take sarcasm and slights personally. Avoiding an edge at stressful times, and steering clear of power struggles can head off misunderstandings. That’s not to say that any form of abuse should be tolerated. Excessive, ugly behavior must be addressed immediately and firmly.

The smart parent will look for opportunities for the children to have relaxed, one-on-one time with the new family members, so they can form relationships, on their own, at their own pace.

It’s not uncommon for a parent to feel guilty that openly relating to the new spouse in a close, loving way will be construed as a betrayal. The self-esteem of the parents and their sense of security with each other will markedly affect their ability to face the challenges. If the new stepparents trust they truly have their partner’s unwavering love and support, it may provide the strength to withstand the hurts, and the motivation to persevere.

Most of us have room in our hearts to simultaneously love different people, in different ways. It is important to remember, though, that the scars are often deep. It can take months and years for the hurts to soften. When adults respond with sensitivity and emotional support, they have taken critical steps to help young people process their losses and become receptive to the changes around them.

Compiled by:

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 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 and magazines such as Noseweek, You and Huisgenoot. His clients include artists, celebrities, sports people and high networth individuals. 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.

The Effects of Divorce on Children


The Effects of Divorce on Children

As a family law attorney I am involved on a daily basis in stories about divorce or care and contact issues between parents and children and many times I see how the loss of a parent has affected the lives of children. Although my approach is  always clinical, I’m often saddened by these stories, but in awe as to how many of these adult children have risen above their loss to develop an emotionally healthy outlook on life.

It was with great interest that I watched psychotherapist, Gary Neuman, who appeared on one of Oprah’s shows. Gary interviewed two young children, a brother and sister; they were abandoned by their mother when she divorced her husband, their father. Both children were crying, and yet were remarkably articulate in their description of their thoughts and feelings regarding their mother’s abandonment of them due to divorce. While parents do divorce each other, they don’t divorce their children.

Children nonetheless are the ones who live out the divorce because their day-to-day routines, not to mention their emotional lives, are so deeply affected by it. And of course, the impact of being estranged or abandoned by a parent as a result of divorce can have far reaching and long lasting consequences on their lives. A number of experts on children of divorce question whether the abandonment or estrangement necessarily leads to lifelong behavioural and emotional scarring. What they do find is that one parent’s love, nurturing, and support, can go a long way to helping a child overcome many of the emotional and behavioural issues that otherwise could ensue.

It is a fact that divorce can affect the closeness of the parent versus child relationship for a number for reasons and can take a serious emotional toll on the child. Joan Kelly, one of the America’s foremost experts on children of divorce, defines an estranged relationship between a parent and child as a diminished, thinned out, and less meaningful bond. She says that 24% of children in the United States from divorced families are seeing a parent once a year, if at all and one may assume that this figure is even bigger in South Africa.

In his research, Robert Emery Director of the Centre for Children, Families, and the Law at the University of Virginia, found that non-residential fathers saw their children only 4 times per month following divorce, and about 20% of children had no contact at all with their fathers 2-3 years after divorce. Other research have concluded that, many students of divorced parents who had a limited relationship with their fathers while growing up stated that they would have liked more contact with their fathers during their adolescence, would have liked to have been closer, and wanted more time together. It is a fact that a parent’s rejection of a child or a parent’s inconsistent presence could drastically affect a child’s self esteem.

One good parent who is loving and nurturing can overcome the negative effects of losing the relationship with the other parent. While the emotional impact on a child resulting from the loss of a parent’s relationship could be significant, it doesn’t have to be disastrous.

The following advice should be considered:

  • Family is not a just about biology. Find role models who will support and care about you. Be there for your kids.
  • Be reliable, pay maintenance, show your love, and do what you say you are going to do.
  • Provide help. Initiate the conversation about their loss of the relationship with their other parent.
  • Lend an understanding ear. Don’t lecture, and don’t feel you have to have the perfect answer.
  • Honesty. Find help for what to say to your children if you don’t know what to say. Children need to be heard.
  • You can’t control what the other parent does; you can only control yourself.
  • To help your children get through their pain, ensure that they feel heard and listened to –that gives them value.

You want your children to perceive themselves with their own goals and aspirations, independent of their status as the children of divorce.

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.

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

O: +27 (0) 21 422 1323

F: 086 572 8373

E: bertus@divorceattorney.co.za; W: www.divorceattorney.co.za; Blog: www.divorceattorneys.wordpress.com;  Twitter: www.twitter.com/edivorce; Facebook: www.facebook.com/divorceattorneys; Skype: divorceattorney

%d bloggers like this: