Parenting plans : the development of substantive guidelines for professionals
Robinson, Tanya Marie
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Parenting plans are a new concept for professionals in South Africa working in the field of divorce. Emphasis has been placed on the development of parenting plans by including the concept of parenting plans in section 33 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. Professionals are now confronted with formulating adequate parenting plans which are focussed on the best interest standard of the child(ren) and that will assist the family with its functioning post–divorce. The aim of this research was to develop substantive guidelines that can assist the professional in drafting parenting plans. To achieve this aim, the following objectives guided the study: * To provide the legal context of parenting plans in South Africa. A legal context of parenting plans in South Africa is discussed by way of a literature study through an intensive analysis and critical discussion on a number of legal instruments pertaining to children, such as the Children’s Act 38 of 2005; the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). * To ascertain the views of mental health professionals (social workers and psychologists) and legal professionals (attorneys and family advocates) with regard to the divorcing family and parenting plans. The views of mental health professionals and legal professionals with regard to the divorcing family in respect of parenting plans were established. Professionals completed an electronic questionnaire that consisted of open questions to establish their views. Further telephonic interviews with the professionals were facilitated to gain further insight into the professional view points on the issue of divorcing families and parenting plans. * To ascertain the needs of the divorcing family (parents and child(ren)) and to present these needs in the structuring of a parenting plan. The needs of the divorcing family (parents and child(ren)) were established through an explorative approach by means of a document study and electronic questionnaires that were completed by the family members. Through this exploration the researcher obtained an understanding of the needs of the divorcing family related to parenting plans. * To provide professionals with comprehensive and clear guidelines on the basic structure and general content of a parenting plan. Comprehensive and clear guidelines on the basic structure and general content of a parenting plan were constructed for professionals working in this area, based on findings of articles 1, 2 and 3 of this research. The researcher also relied on her background and training as a qualified social worker to construct these guidelines. It was concluded that professionals are not necessarily well equipped to structure high quality parenting plans. Guidelines ought to assist the professionals to structure plans that are well organised, practical, child–centred, developmentally appropriate, and representative of the divorcing family needs. The researcher believes that as parenting plans are obligatory for parents that divorce, there is a need for South African research on this subject matter. This study is a contribution in the research field as to assist the professionals with the task of compiling parenting plans for the divorcing family. In addition this study adds value to the forensic field by setting guidelines on the structuring of parenting plans that empower the professional to work in this challenging field.
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