CHILD CUSTODY

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As at the end of 2022, the rate of divorce was at 17.7 percent, and the number continues to rise by the day. Often, divorcees find themselves in limbo when it comes to who takes custody of the child or children. In worst case scenarios, divorcees end up in spirited wrangles whose brunt is borne by the children. It is therefore imperative for parents to acquaint themselves with knowledge pertaining to child custody, as provided for in the Children’s Act 2022.

Custody can either be physical or legal. Physical Custody attributes to where the child lives. It is further classified into Sole Physical Custody where one parent lives with the child permanently while the other may be granted visitation. Joint Physical Custody, is where the child resides with each parent over an agreed schedule. Legal Custody on the other hand, refers to making decisions on the child’s welfare such as health, education, religion etc.

There are several factors that are considered when determining child custody, which are hellbent on the best interests of a child. On some occasions, the wishes of the child can be taken into consideration, but have to be in their best interest.

Parental stability is considered by the court before custody is granted. The court establishes each parent’s ability to provide a comfortable environment that would nurture the child into growth. Factors such as financial capability, physical and mental health and caregiving skills are taken into careful consideration.

Continuity and stability of the child is of paramount importance. The decision to be made is dependent on whether it will disrupt the routines and the well being of the child. The court also considers cooperation between parents. If parents demonstrate the ability to cooperate seamlessly, they end up making joint decisions that are advantageous to both the parents and the child.

Past reports of domestic violence, abuse or neglect committed by either parents are carefully put into consideration when the court is determining the custody of the child. Priority is given to the safety and well-being of the child.

The process of obtaining custody of a child involves a number of steps. First, the parent seeking custody or a change in custody arrangement is required to file a Custody Petition at the Family Division of the High Court, which most often advocates for a mediation as a first step where the issue can be solved amicably. In case mediation fails to work or is not applicable, the case is brought before the court and both parties are called upon to argue their case and present their evidence. The court evaluates the provided facts and makes a judgment based on the best interest of the child.

Handling child custody matters while following legal procedures ensures fair decision making that protects the well being of the child. Parents need to cooperate and communicate effectively in order to make the process seamless and favorable to them as well as the child in question.

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