Eveline de Klerk
SWAKOPMUND - A Walvis Bay father says Namibian men are at the receiving end when it comes to their children’s custody.
He says men not only have to fight for custody of their children but are pre-judged by social workers who side with mothers without even giving a fair chance to fathers when they apply for legal custody of their children
Jerome van Wyk, in an emotional interview with New Era, said he was hit with the harsh reality that the law mainly sides with the mother, regardless of the fact that the law advocates equal rights on the issue.
Van Wyk who is currently going through a divorce from his wife of 10 years says he and his now ex-wife currently have joined custody over their 8-year-old daughter.
However, he felt it necessary to apply for sole custody to keep his daughter with him in Walvis Bay as his ex-wife decided to uproot their daughter by moving to Rehoboth as from next month.
He says his former wife will be commuting between Windhoek and Rehoboth on a daily basis and that this is his main concern due to the fact that they both don’t have any relatives living in Rehoboth that could help out with their daughter as the wife works odd hours.
Van Wyk feels it is completely unnecessary to uproot their daughter in the middle of a school year and that it is not ideal for her to be left with strangers.
“She is already dealing with the divorce hence I don’t feel that she needs to be taken out of her known environment. I also have been the main caregiver to our daughter as my wife was travelling most of the times and was rarely at home,” he said.
He explained that his former wife has a hectic work schedule and rarely paid attention to their daughter.
“I am not badmouthing my ex-wife but I am a better parent to our daughter and she knows it too. It is no secret that I have been the one that has been taking care of my daughter since she was a baby. I did everything with my daughter from teaching her how to wash, dress herself. I moulded my daughter to what she is today and I want to be given the opportunity as her biological father to continue that,” said an emotional Van Wyk.
He says his daughter also made it clear, to both social workers and her mother that she chose to stay with the father rather than moving with the mother.
However, he says he was hit with the harsh reality when he was blatantly told by a social worker that children go automatically to their mothers.
What shocked him the most, he says, was that the decision was made before he even stated his case.
“I realise that this is probably what men face on a daily basis when they fight for their children’s well-being. I feel our legal system or those that deal with custody issues should be trained to be impartial when dealing with such issues,” he said.
He says there are men that are doing exceptionally well, even better than some mothers in caring for their children.
“The fact that you give birth to a child does not make one a better parent or a responsible one. There are men out there that raise children better than women and I am one of them,” he says.
Children’s advocate and deputy chief of the human rights and legal services division in the ombudsman’s office, Ingrid Husselman, when contacted said although she had no comment on the specific matter “as I am not familiar with the full set of facts”, the law firstly aims to protect children but does not allow discrimination against fathers.
She explained that service providers like social workers would be wrong to advise a father that custody is awarded to the mother without exception or without taking into consideration other factors. She requested that Van Wyk approach the supervisor of the social worker(s) in question.
She added that both parents have equal rights and responsibilities regarding their children. Husselmann also pointed out that the childcare and protection act , Act 3 of 2015 (which came into operation on 30 January 2019) makes the best interest of the child the key consideration in matters concerning the child.
“Decisions regarding the care and protection of children are often complicated and the best interest standard aims to reduce conflict and simplify decision-making because the deciding factor must always be what is best for the child.”
She says the act guides decision-makers in what will be in the child’s best interest. “The importance of a stable family environment is but one such factor,” she explained.
Husselman also stated the act recognizes the importance of child participation and sets out children’s rights and responsibilities.
She says children of sufficient age, maturity and stage of development must be given an opportunity to express an opinion about decisions which affect them.
“Such views must be given an appropriate degree of consideration bearing in mind the child’s age and maturity. This is important because children like adults have thoughts and feelings, responsibilities and opinions and should not be treated like objects to be argued over,” she added.
Eveline de Klerk
2019-05-16 10:39:09 4 days ago