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South African Woman Jailed for Denying Father Access to Child



Woman Jailed for Denying Father Access to Child

In an unexpected turn of events, a woman has been handed a 12-month jail sentence by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

This decision comes as a result of her continuous refusal to grant the child’s father access to their minor child, despite two court orders.

The recent ruling, delivered by Judge PD Phahlane earlier this month, brings attention to a significant legal stance on parental rights and the well-being of the child.

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Defiance of Court Orders

The case centred around Mr S, who sought the court’s intervention to enforce previous orders allowing him access to his child. The first respondent, the child’s mother, consistently defied these court orders issued in August 2021 and June 2022. In response, Mr. S filed a contempt of court application.

In a thorough judgment, Judge Phahlane highlighted the mother’s consistent disregard for court orders and the adverse impact on the child’s right to maintain a relationship with the father.

The judge emphasized that the first respondent’s actions not only showed disrespect for the court’s authority but also directly violated the child’s rights, protected by the Children’s Act and the South African Constitution.

Judge Phahlane stated,

“While courts do not countenance disobedience of judicial authority, it needs to be stressed that contempt of court does not consist of mere disobedience of a court order, but of the contumacious disrespect for judicial authority”

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Importance of the Child’s Connection with Both Parents

He further expressed his view that the mother’s ongoing defiance and violation of her child’s rights could not be overlooked. Referring to the Children’s Act, he stressed the paramount importance of the minor child maintaining a connection with his father.

“The Children’s Act provides in Section 7(1)(f) that in determining the best interest of the child, the court must be guided by ‘the child’s need’ to maintain a connection with his/her family. In casu, the need for the minor child to maintain a connection with his father is of paramount importance. There is no denying that the applicant has been disadvantaged unfairly while having Court Orders at his disposal. This speaks volumes on how the first respondent has reduced Court Orders into a mere paper that has no value. In my view, this utter disrespect and violation of the Court Orders cannot be tolerated,” Phahlane added.

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Woman Jailed for Denying Father Access to Child

The court criticized the woman’s attorney for failing to provide proper legal advice and ensure compliance with court orders.

In the final decision, Judge Phahlane sentenced the mother to 12 months in prison for her willful and malicious non-compliance with the court orders. Additionally, the court ordered the first respondent to bear the costs of the legal proceedings on an attorney and own client scale, including the costs of employing counsel.

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