The Childrens Act, 38 of 2005 came in to complete operation on 1 April 2010. This Act changed the Law relating to the rights and obligations of parents regarding their children. Before the Act, the focus was on the authority of parents over their children. When parties got divorced, one parent normally was awarded custody of the children born of the marriage. That parent had sole "control" over the daily lives of the children. The other parent was only awarded access. When the "custodian" parent frustrated the other parent's access, there was very little that that parent could do, apart from expensive court litigation.
The Children's Act has changed our whole way of reasoning when it comes to parenting. Both parents now equal parental responsibilities and rights in respect of their children. Both parents now have a responsibility to "care" for the child. Both parents must contribute financially towards to the needs of the child and both should also maintain contact with the child, no matter where the child lives.
The focus for parents now is on their responsibilities towards their children and not their "rights" as parents. Despite divorce or separation, parents will continue to share in their children's physical, emotional and spiritual care as well as continue to make decisions about their children's health, education, discipline and welfare together in the best interests of their children.
Parents should attempt to minimise the disruptions in their children's lives through consultation and co-operation with one another and should seek to remain flexible in arranging reasons schedules in order to promote stability, consistency and continuity on an on-going basis in their children's lives.
Parents can now agree on how to structure and exercise their responsibilities and rights regarding their children and set this out in a Parenting Plan, which can be made an Order of Court. When parents experience problems exercising their responsibilities and rights regarding their children, the parents cannot proceed to Court litigation unless they have first tried to agree on a Parenting Plan. Professional with meet with the parents and children and try to assist them through mediation to resolve the conflict and compile a Parenting Plan.