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Must I tell ex where his child is living?

I handled a case recently where my client’s soon-to-be ex-wife did not want to tell him where she and the minor child were residing. Does our law allow for this?

This had been a particularly acrimonious divorce. My client had met his wife about ten years earlier, and they had married virtually six months after they had met. They had an eight year old son together. Problems arose in the marriage. They each alleged that the other had a drinking problem. They no longer shared the same bed.

Then eventually our client was forced to go work a few hours drive out of Cape Town, and the son and his wife continued living in the matrimonial home. Eventually our client decided to move back to Cape Town. On his return he was informed by neighbours that another man had been seen sleeping over at the house while he had been working out of Cape Town.

Our client had good reason to believe that his wife had been having an affair. This led to even more problems in the marriage, and even more arguing. Eventually one day our client’s wife moved out of the house with the child. She did not want to disclose where she was living.

Even though there was no duty on her to disclose her own place of residence if she did not have children, there was and is however a duty on her to disclose the residence of the minor child in terms of the Children’s Act.

I sent her attorney a letter demanding to know the address of the child. No response was received from her attorney, so on my instructions we successfully launched a court application requesting full details of where the child was residing, as well as interim access to the child.

Sometimes parents in a divorce think that they can simply write off the other parent. This however is definitely not what the Children’s Act encourages.

What was particularly frustrating for our client in this case was that after his wife had moved out of the family home, and in with her new lover, she had been admitted to a clinic for depression, and had left the child in the care of her new lover. Our client had never consented to this, and the new man was even taking and fetching the child from school.

Every biological parent has a right in terms of the Children’s Act to an address and phone number of where their child is living at all times. A spouse has a duty to disclose that information to the other spouse, unless there is some kind of court interdict or order which states otherwise.

Parents in a divorce should encourage the ex to participate in the child’s life. Not disclosing the address or phone number of the child to the ex is really not in the minor child’s best interests.

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