If you ever want to read a great book on being a dad you would never go wrong with Dr Bill Cosby's "Fatherhood" but where you will find it I don't know. It was not in print for too long but it is funny, witty and insightful. Yes I also know the man is facing some serious challenges at the moment and that brings me to today's topic. When is a man a bad father in the eyes of the law?
To be politically correct I also ask "when is a woman a bad mother in the eyes of the law" and the answer may surprise you. From experience I can tell you that when it comes to children people act very unreasonably and strangely so at the best of times and during divorce, the second worst of times, even irrationally. They absolutely believe they have to go on a crusade; there is no other word, to "protect" their children from the other half meaning the dad or the mom. They almost always seem deluded to you, who are not personally involved.
Sometimes you sit at stare at a client wondering why on earth then produce the child in the first place if you cannot see them as human beings but objects to be bargained for? Was there no love in the act? Did you not have had dreams of the perfect family around the old Christmas tree once? Where is your natural respect for the man / woman you professed to love so much once that you took an oath before God (and your mates who may not have been drunk at the time) to love and cherish each other, through sickness and it health, poorness and richness until death do you part.
I lost my wife to God recently, seven months in three days from now. I remember and honor her every day. Sometimes I write secret codes into my books which only she will understand and I hear her laughing when I do that. As far as I am concerned death did not part us. Not forever that is, I love her today as much as then but that is soul mate love. I have also been divorced twice, why? They were not my soul mates and not her. They were good women, honorable and bright but not her and I will never make that mistake again - so you learn.
To answer our question, you need to be dangerous to the child to be such a bad mom or dad that the law will prevent you from having access to them. What does that mean? Child abuse in its various forms which I wrote about in a book called Satan's Touch. As with all things in life there is a pattern, same with wife or spouse abuse, there is a pattern and you can recognise it easily and then act on it. Of course, most would not; they would close their eyes and walk away. "How many roads must a man travel before he can see?" asks the songwriter. The answer is not in the wind actually, it is in your heart and when you walk away you know you failed one of God's safeguards for that abused child or woman. In fact sir, you are a coward and a bad father or mom if a woman. One day your own child may have such a problem and when the other parents turn away, you will feel angry and betrayed. You will also regret teaching your children to despise the police enough not to seek help from the man or woman in uniform.
Fair enough, even cowards will understand the above. What else? Being in jail or accused of horrible crimes? No, that is no reason not to see your child though there may be practical difficulties in doing so. It will take a most understanding mom to bring the child to such a place. Even the law says that a prison sentence of more than 5 years is enough reason for a divorce but this not about you, it is about a child who needs a dad or a mom. Now mark my words, every child, will look for his natural parents at some stage...better make peace with that. It is not to say he will be impressed with what he finds but blood is always thicker than water. There will be a natural desire to see his own blood. You cannot prevent this.
What about maintenance money? No money also equals no visiting rights? Absolutely not, the two have nothing to do with being a good dad or mom. I cannot tell you how many "good" mom's ended in jail and police cells because they decided that if the money is not paid, they will refuse access to their object, known to your as your child. It is contempt of court and I assure you, the police will arrest you. Note this - you cannot on the grounds of non-payment of maintenance refuse the mom or dad access. You have other avenues when you are not paid, you can go to court and demand payment. And listen to me, if the man has no job, and cannot get one (really trying) all what will happen to you is that the maintenance will be reduced to almost nothing and you will walk out of that courtroom feeling an idiot for paying lawyers to get you what? Nothing, you are now worse off financially but I hope a bit smarter also. Next time you will know only lawyers win in court. Obviously, if he can afford the maintenance and won't pay, the courts will deal harshly with him.
Then the old adage "I don't like his new wife" or the reverse "You should see the scum bag biker she is with now. K, I cannot expose my child to that." Listen to me, this is stupid reasons unless you can prove to me, never mind the court for you won't get me to make a fool of myself in court on your behalf, that the scum bag and the new wife is bad for the child. Don't tell me they smoke and drink, everyone does that. Don't tell me they know your old double bed a bit more than what you knew it in marriage, there is no crime in that either. We don't live in 1665 anymore and even then, people did not get blind on purpose. Otherwise the human race would not be around today. It is not a good enough reason.
And as with all things in law, if you say something you better be able to prove it to the satisfaction of the court and the laws of evidence. Otherwise you are abusing your child by preventing him/her seeing their loved. Remember now, blood, his own blood, is thicker than your love for your new soul. Don't abuse him with your own failures in life and never degrade your ex in front of him. The man might be a murderer and a nationalist but he is still that boy or girl’s dad. He is still the one who is entitled to be called "dad" or "mom" if you are a woman. Don't try to deny nature. It is silly.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.