Agreements regarding access to children after divorce cannot always foresee future complications. Consider, for example, the many instances where it would be necessary to make arrangements to adapt the agreed times that the child may be with one parent: The ex-spouse may wish to surprise the child with a special overseas holiday treat for a period exceeding the agreed times; or may seek that the child remains for a longer period at a family wedding week-end or even funeral.
A spouse may not simply decide not to stick to a court order and the rules contained therein.
Over the past festive season, a related scenario presented itself when a Cape Town mother denied her former husband access to their children. The father had gone to great lengths to regularise his right to see his children. This included the appointment of a social worker and a psychologist to conduct reunification therapy. This despite, the mother took every opportunity to cause further delays and the father only had his first contact session with the minor children almost four months later. The mother continued to place obstacles in the way of the process, and in disregard of court orders, left on holiday with the children without discussion with the father or any of the professionals, and without notifying the father’s attorneys.
The father had no choice but to ask his attorneys to approach the Western Cape High Court with a claim based on the wife’s contempt of the court order. This elicited a stern warning from the bench. The High Court stated that for the next year the mother must spend Saturdays and Sundays from 8am to 5pm ‘at Pollsmoor Prison: medium B section … should she frustrate the father’s contact in future’ and continue to ignore the existing court order.