021 671 9322

Even in the happiest of families, things don’t always work out as planned. When children are part of the picture, whether parents are married or simply co-habiting, it is the children’s rights and best interests that need to be put first.

The High Courts are regarded as the ‘Upper Guardian’ of all minor children in South Africa. The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 clearly sets out aspects of parental rights and responsibilities and sets out a process to follow if a dispute arises regarding these rights.

A parenting plan is a legal document which specifically deals with the various aspects of parental rights and responsibilities relating to children, including custody and visitation rights, which is now referred to as ‘care and contact’ arrangements. Care and contact arrangements include, where and with whom the children will live and who will be responsible for maintaining the children financially. While a parenting plan will include certain agreed upon terms between parents, such as the type of school that the children will attend or what extra-murals they will be involved in, a parenting plan also provides an important legal framework detailing an alternative dispute resolution process to be followed if a dispute arises.

Whether in divorce proceedings, or in the case of unmarried parents who have separated, an agreement which includes the appropriate dispute resolution provisions will go a long way in speedily resolving disputes, whilst maintaining the best interest of a child.

In the event of a dispute, a written agreement between parents in respect of their parental rights and responsibilities is easily enforceable when the agreement is either registered with the office of the Family Advocate (a government department) or made an order of the High Court, Divorce Court or Children’s Court. It is therefore essential to have the agreement made an Order of Court or registered with the Office of the Family Advocate.

Parenting plans are becoming an increasingly useful legal tool to assist parents, divorced and unmarried alike, with enforcing their parental rights and responsibilities. A well thought out parenting plan eliminates uncertainty and alleviates potential litigation in future.

For more information regarding parenting plans contact Bridget Witts-Hewinson on 021 671 9322 or by email at bridget@curranattorneys.co.za.