Parenting Plans In South Africa: A Guide For Co-Parenting After Separation


Separation or divorce is undoubtedly challenging for couples, especially when children are involved. Amicable co-parenting is essential to ensuring your children’s well-being while maintaining a healthy relationship with them. In South Africa, a parenting plan is one effective way to establish clear guidelines and responsibilities for co-parenting.

The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 makes provisions to assist parents with their shared parental responsibility through a written document called a parenting plan. This document is essentially a road map for parents to use after divorce or separation to help guide them on how they will raise their children.

Whether you are going through a difficult or amicable separation, a parenting plan can offer you and your children stability. Before you set up a parenting plan, knowing a little about them would be a good idea. Information such as what a parenting plan entails, why it is important, how to register it, and what you can do if it is not adhered to can help you traverse this new landscape.


What Is A Parenting Plan In A South African Context?

A parenting plan is a written formal agreement between parents or guardians that outlines how they will share parenting responsibilities and make decisions regarding their children after separation or divorce. It serves as a roadmap for co-parenting, prioritizing the children’s best interests while promoting cooperation and effective communication between parents.


How Do You Draw Up A Parenting Plan?

Drawing up a parenting plan typically involves the expertise and assistance of professionals such as family lawyers, social workers, psychologists, or other suitable personnel such as a Family Advocate. These professionals often play a crucial role in ensuring the plan is comprehensive and fair and set out to ensure the children’s best interests.

Suppose you wish to make your parenting plan legally binding. In that case, you or the professional that aided you in its compilation can register it with the Family Advocate’s Office or the Children’s Court.

There is no legal requirement regarding registering a parenting plan in South Africa. However, registering it with the Family Advocate or the Children’s Court is highly recommended.

Registering your parenting plan adds a layer of formality and can provide legal recognition and enforceability if necessary. Non-compliance can have legal consequences once the parenting plan becomes a court order.


What Is Included In A Parenting Plan?

A parenting plan addresses various aspects of parenting, including custody, visitation schedules, decision-making authority, communication methods, and financial support. Here are some vital elements that you should ensure are included in your parenting plan:

  • Parental responsibilities: Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each parent, taking into account your child’s physical, emotional, and monetary needs, education, healthcare, and extracurricular activities.
  • Visitation schedule: Establish a detailed plan for where and when your child will spend time with each parent, including weekends, holidays, and school vacations.
  • Decision-making: Determine how significant decisions regarding your child’s upbringing, such as education, religion, and medical treatment, will be made. Considering both parents’ input is essential while prioritizing your child’s best interests.
  • Communication: Specify the preferred communication methods between parents and establish guidelines for sharing information about your child’s well-being, including school updates, medical appointments, and important events.
  • Dispute resolution: Include provisions for resolving conflicts or disagreements that may arise, such as utilizing mediation or involving a third-party professional to facilitate discussions.


Benefits Of Entering Into A Parenting Plan

Entering into a parenting plan offers several advantages for both parents and children:

  • Clarity and predictability: A well-defined parenting plan clarifies each parent’s responsibilities and schedules, reducing confusion and conflicts.
  • Stability for children: Consistent routines and clear expectations established in a parenting plan create a stable environment for children, promoting their emotional well-being and sense of security.
  • Parental involvement: A parenting plan encourages both parents to be actively involved in their child’s life, fostering a healthy parent-child relationship and shared decision-making.
  • Minimizing legal disputes: A parenting plan can help minimize future disagreements and the need for court intervention, saving time, money, and emotional stress.


In Which Circumstances Should You Use A Mediator?

Mediation can be an effective option for resolving disputes and reaching agreements in situations where parents cannot agree to the terms of a parenting plan.

Mediation provides a neutral and professional environment where both parties can engage in discussions, allowing them to express concerns and work towards finding mutually beneficial solutions. It is instrumental when communication between parents is strained or when complex issues require expert guidance.


What Recourse Is Available If One Of The Parents Breaks The Plan?

Legal avenues are available for recourse if one parent fails to comply with the agreed-upon parenting plan. The affected parent can seek legal advice and apply to enforce the plan with the court. The court may impose penalties on the non-compliant parent, modify the existing plan, or take appropriate action to uphold the child’s best interests.


Can You Make Changes To A Parenting Plan?

Once a parenting plan has been compiled, it is essential to recognize that circumstances and needs may change over time. Fortunately, parenting plans can be modified or amended to reflect these changes.

Any modifications typically require applying with the court for a parenting plan that has been made a court order. The parent applying for the change would need to demonstrate a significant change in circumstances or a compelling reason for the modification. The court will evaluate the proposed amendments based on the child’s best interests.

In the case of a parenting plan that has not been made a court order, parents have more flexibility to modify the plan through mutual agreement. Maintaining open and effective communication with the other parent to discuss the proposed changes is crucial. It is advisable to document the changes in writing and have them signed by both parents to ensure clarity and enforceability.

At Burnett Attorneys & Notaries, we understand the challenges of co-parenting after a separation or divorce. Our team of experienced family law professionals is here to aid you in creating a solid parenting plan that will protect your children’s best interests and ensure a harmonious co-parenting relationship. We offer expert guidance in drafting, reviewing, registering your parenting plan, and advocating for your rights in court, if necessary.

Remember, a well-crafted parenting plan is not just a legal document; it’s a roadmap to successful co-parenting. Let Burnett Attorneys & Notaries be your trusted legal partner in building a bright and stable future for your family. Contact us now to take the first step towards a harmonious co-parenting journey.