Pretoria - A court has said that a mother was “unreasonable” and “spiteful” for insisting that her former husband, who is living in Dubai, could only see his son within the borders of South Africa.
It then ordered her to within 30 days complete all necessary documentation so the child could obtain a passport.
The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, said no matter what the issues were between parents, the rights of children remained paramount.
The parents, who cannot be named to protect the identity of their son (no age given), are not on speaking terms. They communicated only via text messages about their son and the court voiced its displeasure at the tone of the messages, which clearly showed the disrespect between them.
The father turned to court as he moved to Dubai, where he worked, in 2018. While the mother has custody over their son, in terms of the divorce agreement the father had full access and visitation rights.
The father said the only way he was ensured of seeing his son was if the child visited him abroad. He agreed he could come to South Africa from time to time, but said due to work commitments it was not always possible.
To enable the child to be issued with a passport, the mother has to apply for it, together with the father, to Home Affairs. She also has to give consent for the child to travel and submit a certified copy of her identity document to the department.
The mother, however, refused.
She told the court that as the child may go to his father every second weekend in terms of their custody agreement, her husband had to travel from Dubai to South Africa every second weekend before she would allow the child to travel to Dubai.
She also said that once the child turned 13, she may reconsider giving her consent for him to obtain a passport.
One of her fears was that once the child is in Dubai, her former husband will not allow him to return.
The child’s father, however, said he would never retain the child there, as he knew it would be a criminal offence and something he could not afford while working abroad.
The mother then said the child could not travel by himself and said if she did agree to allow him to go to Dubai, she wanted to accompany him.
The husband said he had no problem with this, but she then had to foot the bill for her own air ticket and accommodation. However, he asked the court to order that his siblings – the child’s aunts and uncles – could accompany the boy to Dubai.
He said while he will on occasion fetch the boy, it is too costly to fly to South Africa and back each time.
The mother again had put her foot down and applied for an interdict, in another application soon to be heard, that none of her former husband’s family may come near the child.
Acting Judge J Mthimunye said that in terms of the common law, a man acquired full rights and responsibilities over his child by virtue of his marriage to the mother. She said the child could not be held ransom because of the parents.