Taking your child abroad can be child abduction if you don’t follow proper procedures

A hostile divorce in which child custody has been contested can have a devastating effect on the family unit. This has resulted in parents removing their children from South Africa without the permission of the other parent in an effort to gain full custody, now known as child care. This is regarded as child abduction in the eyes of the law and can lead to criminal proceedings against the abducting parent.

Child Abduction - Divorce Attorney Cape Town

In South Africa both parents must give written permission for children to obtain a passport. Furthermore, if one parent wishes to leave the country with their child, they must have the written permission of the other parent to do so. Without this documentation, there is a risk the parent could be stopped and charged with child abduction, even if the purpose of the trip is entirely innocent.

Child Travel Restrictions Revised – and Revised Again

In an effort to reduce child abduction, new regulations were introduced in 2015 requiring all children travelling in and out of South Africa to carry not only a valid passport but also an unabridged birth certificate. The unabridged certificate lists the names of both mother and father. Additionally, children travelling with only one parent, or with someone who is not their parent (for example a teacher on a school trip), must also present a signed affidavit from non-accompanying parents providing consent for the child to leave South Africa.

However, these strict requirements were having a detrimental effect on family tourism to South Africa, and at the end of 2018 the rules were relaxed. The majority of children travelling with their families are not victims of child abduction! It is no longer necessary for the parents of a child arriving in South Africa with a valid passport to also present the child’s unabridged birth certificate. However, South African children still require this when travelling, unless they have the new-style passport that includes the names of both parents. Written permission is still required when both parents are not travelling with the child. There are exceptions and other requirements for single parents and adoptive parents.

Need advice?

Simon Dippenaar & Associates Inc. are experts divorce attorneys and family lawyers and attorneys in Cape Town. Want help or advice on child care and contact or moving abroad with your child? Make sure you avoid being accused of child abduction. Call us now on +27 (0) 86 099 5146.

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