The South African Law of Contact to Children is largely case-based law that has developed over a long period of time. Accordingly contact guidelines are found in the applicable case-law and not in the laws governing children and their rights, save for the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 which makes provision for the child’s right to see and spend time with his or her parents.
Child Contact Guidelines
As a starting point it is worth bearing in mind that the right of contact is a right belonging to the child and not the parent. The non-“custodian/primary residence” parent (ie: the parent who does not provide the child with his/her principal place of residence and accordingly does does not hold primary residence) may not have primary residence but they do importantly, possess an entitlement to spend time with the child and enjoy the child’s company.
As a general rule, providing there are no indications of alcohol or drug abuse or of violence and criminal activity, the general contact guideline is that the non-custodian/non-primary residence parent is entitled to exercise reasonable contact with the child. As a rule, reasonable contact includes some midweek contact, contact on an alternate weekend as well as contact for part of a school holiday or an alternate school holiday. Most professionals working in the family arena tend however towards encouraging parents to put in place a generous contact arrangement on the basis of recognition of the principle that a child needs regular and ongoing contact with both its mother and father for optimal growth and development.