The reality: “My name is Paul. My wife and I are divorced, and we have a shared residency regime with our minor child. President Ramaphosa announced the country wide lockdown from the 26th of March 2020 until the 16th of April 2020. I read your previous article about contact rights during the Coronavirus lockdown, but I was wondering if the government has released any regulations to govern this position? How do we continue to share contact with our child during this time? Can I drive to her place to see and fetch my child when it is my days to spend time with him? I am really confused about what is legal to do? Are there are regulations that have been released yet? Please help! I miss my son but I don’t want to be in trouble with the law”
Our previous article on contact rights during the Coronavirus lock down with regards to visitation rights with children was based around opinions of many professionals in the legal field and what guidance they could best offer during this uncertain time.
Since our last article, government has released regulations specifically regarding the position of contact rights with children during the lockdown period. Two sets of regulations were released by two different officials from government which appear to have conflicting thoughts and views.
However, we’ve taken the consensus amongst many in the legal profession regarding these regulations to help give you some solid guidance:
Despite Minister Ronald Lamola stating in his regulations that Parenting Plans must be adhered to during this period, Dr. Dlamini-Zuma states that “for the period of the lockdown, every person is confined to his or her place of residence, unless strictly for the purpose of performing an essential service, obtaining an essential good or service, collecting a social grant, or seeking emergency , life-saving or chronic medical attention.”
It is clear from Dr. Dlamini-Zuma’s words that divorced and / or separated parents should not be excluded from the lockdown regulations just so that they can exercise contact with their children – Parents exercising contact with their children is not considered an essential service during this time.
Furthermore, the Justice Minister (Minister Ronald Lamola) does not have the power to issue directives which override the directives released relating to the lockdown by Dr. Dlamini-Zuma. Thus, Minister Ronald Lamola stating that Parenting Plans must be adhered to is surely not sensible, nor the authority to go by.
Parents should stay put during the lockdown and use new and creative ways to exercise contact with their children during this uncertain period (ie: video calls, WhatsApp calls, and Skype).
In short, PROTECT YOUR CHILDREN, BE SAFE AND ENCOURAGE NEW WAYS OF EXERCISING CONTACT WITH THEM USING THE TECHNOLOGY AT YOUR DISPOSAL!