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Friday, July 15, 2016

Child custody / visitation Laws - handling custody and visitation after a break-up

What are the standard child visitation laws ? Are there any child visitation laws in South Africa? What rights does the mother have when it comes to visitation with the child? What right does the father have when it comes to visitation with the child? The father of my child and I just broke up / separated / are getting a divorce - what do I do now?

The end of a relationship can be daunting and stressful. The emotional turmoil of the separation with someone who you obviously had feelings for at some point can seem pale in comparison to the stresses involved in figuring out where to go next regarding your child or children if you have any.

When it comes to child custody / visitation you can never start acting soon enough. Don't hang around thinking things will just sort themselves out, play themselves out or handle themselves. You need to get to planning as soon as possible. If anything, your child needs stability and effective planning in this regard.

There are a few "rules" or points to remember regarding the laws and steps when it comes to child custody or visitation rights (general but specific to South Africa).

1. YOU CAN NEVER and SHOULD NEVER withhold access from the other parent no matter how little you think of him or her, how terrible you think he / she is, or the reason for the end of the relationship. 
If your ex was abusive TOWARDS YOUR CHILD or you fear that your child may be in danger during contact with your ex, you need to seek help from the police or the court.  Only the court can keep the other parent away from the child. If you withhold contact without following the correct procedures you could lose custody of your child.

2. Unfortunately with regard to South African Law, if the father of your child was abusive (including physically abusive) to you, this alone is not reason to withhold visitation or limit his rights to the child. 
You need to have proof that he was abusive TO THE CHILD or poses a threat to him / her.

3. Get a Parenting Plan AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. 
Without a parenting plan everything is likely to get complicated, tricky and much disorganized. Your child needs structure in his / her life and a parenting plan is key to that. Read about Parenting Plans here

3. Put your child FIRST. 
Regardless of your feelings towards your ex-partner, your children should always come first. If the father of your child was a good father and has a good relationship with your child / children don't try and change that or destroy that. If anything, encourage it and help it along. 

4. Your child needs both parents as much as possible. 
You do not want your child growing up thinking that his / her dad didn't love him / her. Or growing up to find out that his / her dad did love him / her but you kept them apart. Let your child know that both parents love him. Or that you tried to encourage a relationship for him with his father but his father wasn't open to it. Know that no matter what happens YOU TRIED and your child will not have reason to resent you in any way. You are not doing it for your ex - you are doing it FOR YOUR CHILD.

5. Don't bad mouth your ex to your child.
Depending on your child’s age he / she will have questions. If they are under 2 years old they probably wouldn't even notice much and you can use this as an advantage to structure things going forward nicely. Separations and breakups are never easy on children but the fact that he / she is young makes them more adaptable. Having a routine and schedule can be more easily accepted for him / her and they can grow up with the "this is how it's always been" mentality. 

Over 2 years old things may be a little more complicated. They may take some time adjusting to the change of not having one parent around all the time or not being able to spend time with both their parents at the same time. Help your child understand the separation by only divulging age appropriate information. Keep things on a 'need to know' basis as much as possible.

As your child gets older and becomes a teenager he or she will understand things better - if the other parent is a bad parent, a bad example / role model or never there for your child, doesn't support him or her etc., your child will eventually see this for him / herself. Children are not stupid. He / she will figure it out and you will not appear to be the ' bad guy'.

Here are a few Parenting / Child Custody / Single Parenting articles that might help you:



Disclaimer:
Please note that I AM NOT a lawyer or legal representative. All information I have gained through research from legal sites and representatives as well as experience gained having gone through a divorce while having a young child. For more in-depth information specific to your case please contact a legal representative close to you. 

If you have any questions you would like information or assistance on based on experience the feel free to comment or email me :) 
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