Divorced parents need a Parenting Plan where such details as the education, religious matters, names, nicknames, maintenance, medical requirements, visitation rights etc. are agreed on by both parents. A registered mediator, lawyer, psychologist or other professional acknowledged by the Act can mediate this. For instance parents can introduce a child to a religion, but it is against the Constitution that any religion be forced on any person.
A Christian mother can take her son to church on her weekend and the Muslim father can take the son to Mosque on his weekend. Neither may prevent the other from exposing the child to a particular religion. The Parenting Plan can decree that children will not refer to stepmothers or stepfathers as Mom and Dad.
The law stipulates that the Best Interest of the Child prevails, and that the Child’s voice be heard. It is required that a person trained to work with children, such as a mediator, psychologist or social worker discuss this Parenting Plan with the child and if the child disagrees with it, the child can actually postpone the act of divorce. Of course the child’s age and developmental phases are taken into consideration – leave that to the experts.
Parenting Plans can be registered with the Family Advocate’s Office, that acts in the Best Interest of the Child. Ultimately the State is the upper custodian of all children in South Africa. Parents have rights and responsibilities. Unmarried fathers have rights and responsibilities too but they have to formally apply at the Children’s Court, if they have not been living with the mother.
Maintenance and their involvement in the child’s life is taken into consideration. If a mother disputes paternity, then a DNA test can be done with a pathologist to determine paternity. All law firms can supply the Family Advocate’s Office number and parents can contact the Institute for Mediators – who are not lawyers, but trained to mediate and registered by the State, as a less expensive option.
Ultimately it is in every person’s best interest if divorces can be conducted in a mature, rational manner. I know this sounds impossible, but eventually people do recover from the emotional hurt and they move on and deep down, no matter their initial justifications or motivations, they will feel ashamed of their selfish, childish behaviour.
Years down the line their adult children will want to know why the parents’ spite was more important to them than their childrens’ best interest at that time. When we have children, it implies that we become parents and parents put their childrens’ best interest first. Grow up.
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