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Divorce Parenting Plan

I had an acrimonious divorce case fairly recently which involved three minor children. There was a huge debate over whether my client, the female, should be awarded primary residence or whether primary residence should be shared between her and her soon –to- be ex husband.

The parties were unable to resolve the major issues of the case, relating to the two houses and other assets. The man was spending half of his time at the matrimonial home and half with a new girlfriend who ha had met. The matrimonial home was in Pinelands, whilst his girlfriend lived in Paarl.

At a roundtable meeting with both attorneys and clients present, we agreed that it would be in the interests of the children that a parenting plan be drafted and signed to sort out any dispute regarding contact to the minor children.

In the end we agreed that both parents should have shared residence of the children. A clause was drafted reading as follows: “A shared residence arrangement shall apply in respect of the children and the parties and the children shall in addition have contact with both parties, who shall remain jointly responsible for their care and wellbeing”.

My client was particularly concerned about her husband’s new girlfriend and was worried about how we would sort out any contact issues if there were any problems. We therefore included the usual facilitator clauses in the parenting plan too.

A facilitator is a person appointed to facilitate the resolution of any dispute arising from the parties’ exercise of their parental rights and responsibilities. The facilitator is only a phone call away if there are any disputes. If my client later felt that her husband’s girlfriend was interfering in any way with her contact, she could phone or email the facilitator straight away, who would come to the rescue.

In this case, an amicable solution was reached relating to the children. Neither parent was seen to be fitter than the other, and it was best to have a shared residence for the children.

This was a High Court divorce, with the trial date over a year away. The children are always most important in a divorce. We as attorneys must sort out the children first with a parenting plan, as they are the innocent victims.

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