Grandparents are very important in the lives of grandchildren, but the law pertaining to their roles as such, is remarkably sparse in South Africa.
The Children’s Act makes reference to ‘family meetings’ and the like, but does not have a section devoted to the rights and obligations of grandparents. This requires us as lawyers to be well-versed in the case law and often to formulate, and to propose creative solutions to courts.
As a matter of fact, many children in South Africa are effectively raised by their grandparents – especially in families where both mother and father are employed.
Grandparents can obtain rights, including custodial rights and even guardianship, through application to the appropriate courts. Not all courts that deal with child-related issues can make rulings on the issue of guardianship, for example – only the High Courts have the authority to do so.
Granny awarded custody
We recently applied successfully to have a grandmother appointed not only as a guardian alongside the unmarried parents of her daughter and a man, but the grandmother was granted ‘primary residence’ (custody) of the child, too. Both parents are required to contribute towards the costs incurred by the grandmother in caring for and educating the child.
Grandparents and child maintenance
Children must look first to their own parents for financial support, but grandparents are liable where their children are unable to provide for their own children. They are even liable to support their own adult children, if the ‘children’ are destitute.
Eldercare – rights and remedies
Grandparents have issues of their own; as older people, they are often subject to greater physical and medical risks. They are also at the mercy of their caregivers – cases abound, of the abuse of older people, but the reports fall far short of the reality. In many homes, as the elderly begin to lose their faculties, they may become victims of physical, financial and emotional abuse, even at the hands of their own family members.
We represent elderly people, giving assistance in mediating family disputes and in making applications for the appointment of other professionals to take responsibility for the management of their financial and other affairs.
Roger is in the course of being appointed to act in the place of a disabled man in his divorce case, as the man has been held to be incapable of making his own decisions.