The Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) has ordered a clinical psychologist and a family advocate to investigate a custody arrangement for a 13-year-old boy whose father died suddenly while picking him up from school in February.

TimesLIVE reports that the teen, who now lives with his mother and her partner, was removed from the care of his uncles who – along with his father – had been his primary caregivers for years.

The abrupt uprooting of the boy from his established school, culture and routines are what sparked the custody battle.

Justice Portia Nkutha-Nkontwana was told that the boy is the only child of T and M, a couple who divorced in 2015. He lived primarily with his father T and T’s two brothers in their family home in Hyde Park. This was until T died unexpectedly on 28 February.

T and M had an ‘affable co-parenting relationship’ at the time.  

Under their arrangement, S lived with his father from Sunday morning until Thursday, then with his mother from Thursday until Sunday morning. Over nine years he developed a close bond with his two uncles, who would regularly travel with him and his father to Cyprus on family holidays.

S attended primary school from grade 0 to the end of the first term of his final year of primary school.

The brothers told the court that without warning, M then removed S from his school and placed him in a college in Fourways which was aimed at diluting their relationship with the child.

At the same time, S stopped attending the Greek Orthodox Church, Greek language lessons, Greek dancing and cultural classes. In their application, the brothers asked for a clinical psychologist to investigate the best interests of the boy and recommend the best arrangement.

They asked for an inquiry convened by the office of the family advocate to provide the court with recommendations for their rights of contact and care in terms of the Children’s Act.

M opposed the application. 

TimesLIVE notes that Nkutha-Nkontwana said it is common cause that the applicants and S enjoyed a constant contact and bond for almost nine years before T’s demise.

‘The respondent is clearly not keen to assist S to maintain the bond he shares with the applicants given the obvious tension between the parties,’ Nkutha-Nkontwana said, noting that S himself viewed his relationship with his uncles as positive. 

She ordered that a psychologist and the family advocate carry out the inquiry and that all parties co-operate with the process. P

ending the outcome of the report, the uncles were entitled to ‘reasonable contact’ with S, which included telephonic and electronic contact three evenings a week and day visits every second Saturday. 

Full TimesLIVE report