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A father’s rights are imprortant during divorce. In a recent matter, the parents of a two year old child attended the Durban Family Advocate’s Office for an enquiry as to what was in the best interests of the minor child, where the father was seeking joint residence and the mother was insisting on primary residence.

The father had been actively involved in caring for the child from birth, but since their separation the mother had severely limited his contact with the child. The father contended that the mother made unilateral decisions according to her own personal wishes as opposed to the best interests of the child and held him to ransom on the basis that, as the child’s mother, her views held greater weight over his own. This included a contention by her that the minor child could not be away from her for more than two and a half days at the most, claiming the child wouldn’t be able to cope.

The Family Advocate’s Office delivered a report affirming the importance of the substantive involvement of fathers in the lives of their children and the role they play in their upbringing. The report set out that the mother was forced, during the course of the enquiry, to acknowledge that the father had been actively involved in the child’s life and was capable of effectively caring for the child.

The report, taking into account the young age of the child, recommended that once the minor child turned four that they would then have joint residence of the minor child. This was significantly important to the father in affirming his ability to effectively care for their young child, and the report also set in place extensive contact in favour of the father until this joint residence would take place.

This matter goes towards disproving any public misperceptions that sometimes arise that a mother’s parental rights take precedence over the father’s.

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