South African Family Law requires all divorced parents to enter into a Parenting Plan (Parenting Agreement) with one another. The aim of this being for parents to know how they will each exercise their responsibilities and rights over their minor child.
REGISTRATION OF PARENTING PLANS
Sections 33 and 34 of the new Children’s Act 38 of 2005 deals with the content of Parenting Plans. These Sections also deal with the formalities for their registration, either with the Family Advocate’s Office or through the Court.
WHAT IS A PARENTING PLAN ?
Although there is no legal definition in the Law on Parenting Plans, Sections 33(1) read with Section 33(3) of the Children’s Act essentially indicates that:
this is an agreement which co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights enter into with one another for purposes of their determining the exercise of their respective responsibilities and rights in respect of the child
WHAT SHOULD IDEALLY BE INCLUDED IN THE PLAN ?
- Details regarding the residence of the child
- Details regarding the non-resident parent’s contact with the child
- Special occasions contact
- Any third-party contact with the child
- Issues pertaining to the school and religion of the child
- How Decision-Making in respect of critical issues will be dealt with
- Maintenance for the child
DO PARENTS NEED A MEDIATOR TO HELP THEM ?
Section 33 states that if the co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights are experiencing difficulties in exercising their responsibilities and rights:
They must – prior to seeking the Court’s intervention – first attempt to:
- jointly agree on a Parenting Plan,
- utilizing the assistance of either a Family Advocate, Social Worker, Psychologist, or a qualified Mediator.
THE FORMALITIES FOR REGISTERING A PARENTING PLAN
Section 34 of the Children’s Act provides that
- The Plan must be in writing.
- It can be registered with either the Family Advocate’s Office or the Court.
- The formalities set out in Regulation 9 to the Children’s Act must be complied with.
- Form 8 to the Regulations must be completed and signed by all the Parties.
- This Form must accompany the Parenting Plan at the time of applying for it to be registered with the Family Advocate’s Office or made into a Court Order.
BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD
Regulation 10 of the Regulations to the Children’s Act states that where co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights experience difficulties with their co-parenting:
- They must not only utilize the services of either a Family Advocate, Social Worker, Psychologist, or suitably qualified Mediator, but
- There must also be a signed statement confirming that :
- The Parenting Plan was prepared by either a Family Advocate, Social Worker, Psychologist, or suitably qualified Mediator,
- The child was made aware of the contents of the Parenting Plan – bearing in mind the age, maturity, and stage of development of the child,
- The child was given the opportunity to express his/her views on the Plan and that these views were given due consideration.
THE BENEFITS OF A PLAN
Parenting Plans provide:
- Certainty for parents.
- Certainty and emotional stability for a child.
Parenting Plans ensure that:
- All relevant issues pertaining to the child has been taken into account.
- Adequate provision has been made to meet a child’s needs.
- Potential “strife-areas” are eliminated, thereby ensuring a greater likelihood of peace and calm for the family and in particular, the child.