“Contact” on the other hand, in relation to a child, means to maintain a personal relationship with the child. If the child lives with someone else contact would entail communication with the child on a regular basis either in person or by telephone.
In an application for either care or contact the court will consider the best interest of the child, the relationship between the applicant and the child and the degree of commitment that the applicant has shown towards the child. Furthermore, in determining the best interest of the child the court will have regard to the need for the child to remain in the care of his or her parents or family and the child’s need to maintain a connection with his or her family, extended family, culture or tradition.
It is therefore important to note that an order granting a grandparent care or contact does not take away the parental rights and responsibilities another person has in respect of the child. For example, a mother does not lose her parental rights and responsibilities when the court assigns contact or care to the child’s grandparents, they will then merely be co-holders of parental rights and responsibilities in respect of the child.
In a recent court case it was stated that “grandparents, more often than not, play an important part in a child’s social and psychological development and usually take a keen interest in the upbringing of their grandchildren. The relationship with their grandchildren often assists and compliments parental care. There can therefore be little doubt that it is usually in a child’s best interest to maintain a close relationship with his or her grandparent.”
Should you feel strongly about being more involved with your grandchildren, it would be our recommendation that you consult with a family specialist to discuss your situation and how you could gain more access to your grandchildren.
This article was first published in Phatshoane Henney Attorneys’ July 2018 Newsletter.