What to do when access is denied - the role of the police
I often get calls either from the father, the mother or either a police officer where access has been denied and the traumatized parent cannot access his or her child.
In the bad old days before the children’s act this would be of particular concern to the biological father without a Court order regarding the access, or where the father who had “reasonable access” had been denied same by the mother on the pretext that it was not reasonable. Thank god things have changed as have attitudes, by and large, of the South African police services.
We now refer to Contact which refers to a parent’s rights and privileges to see, visit and spend time with the child (access in old terms) the purpose of which is to ensure the fundamental relationship between the parent and child is fostered and promoted.
Where the couple is still married both the parents have equal inherent automatic rights, duties and responsibilities towards their children which includes at least “reasonable” contact rights.
In other circumstances for the SAP to act where contact has been refused, 3 criteria need to be present :
1. A court order (either High, Magistrate’s, Family, Divorce Court or a Family Advocate’s Office letter/order) granting contact and other rights in terms of Section 21. i.e. an unmarried biological parent who fulfils certain criteria in terms of act.
2. It has/was duly served in the prescribed manner (a court Stamp on any of the orders is proof of this). The investigating officer/members should refer to the local control prosecutor at the first court appearance if in doubt with this point, but this uncertainty must not interfere with or delay the below mentioned steps to be followed.
3. The non compliant party (usually the mother) has failed to comply with the order by not making the child available to collect, or refused telephonic contact, refused school reports, refused attendance at the children’s schools, is unaware of the children’s present residence and location ..Etc)