Jail sentence for mother who refuses father access to child

Henry

A mother from Pretoria was sentenced to 12 months in prison because she refused her ex-husband access to their child.

This despite two previous court orders in which two different judges had already ordered the mother to give her ex-husband access to their minor child.

The prison sentence was suspended pending a revocation application which the mother has since filed to present her version of events to the court.

The mother, who was absent for the hearing of the case, now claims that in both cases she was never given the opportunity to state her side as to why she refuses her ex-husband access to their child.

The woman is expected to get this opportunity next month.

Shani van Niekerk, a Pretoria family law specialist from the law firm Adams & Adams, says as far as she knows, this is the first case of its kind in at least five years.

“So this is a very important matter. This order is a very good warning to parents to make sure that no contact with mother or father is really in the child’s best interest.”

Van Niekerk explains that a child has the right to see his or her parents. “If you deprive the child of that right without good reason, it is a criminal offence. Unfortunately, we often see that mother or father refuse access to a child and the child is used as a pawn.”

Van Niekerk says it is extremely important that the court assesses the merits of each individual case and decides whether the mother and/or father deliberately refuses access and disregards an order from the court.

Merits of this case

According to court documents, the High Court in Pretoria initially ruled in August 2021 that the father must not only pay R15 000 per month in maintenance, but must also have access to his minor child.

The contact is limited to two hours a day and every alternate weekend.

However, according to the father, he has had no access to his child to date.

The father consequently submitted an application in which he asks that the child’s mother be found guilty of contempt of court. This application was granted in June 2022 and the mother was sentenced to 30 days in prison on charges of contempt of court.

However, the mother’s legal representative filed a revocation application (which is still pending) and the father still did not gain access to his child as the court ordered.

A second application was consequently submitted to have the mother again found guilty of contempt. The application was also granted and the mother was sentenced to 12 months in prison on 5 January this year.

This time the court ordered that the father urgently gain access to the child and that the mother report her to the Pretoria Central Police Station within 24 hours of the order to serve her prison sentence at the Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre.

Neither the mother nor her legal representative was present in court when the verdict was delivered and the mother’s legal team submitted a second revocation application to present her side of the case.

“The problem the mother has is that there is a pattern of refusal. I think she will struggle to get past that,” Van Niekerk explained when RNews approached her this week for her legal opinion.

Van Niekerk also said that it does not count in the mother’s favor that she did not attend the court proceedings.

“It looks bad. She seems to have a contempt for the court and its orders.”