Father could lose custody of children for spanking them

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Reprinted from timeslive.co.za, by Rorisang Kgosana – 2024-05-13

A father is in danger of losing custody of his children after pleading guilty to spanking them, saying he was unaware that chastisement was now regarded as a crime.

The Centurion father, 36, is awaiting sentencing after admitting to the court that he hit his children, aged seven, five and three at the time, with a belt. The children’s mother opened a case of common assault against the father in 2022 during their divorce proceedings that started in 2021.

The probation officer assessed the father, the affected children and their mother.

In the sentencing report seen by TimesLIVE, the victim impact statement on the children indicated the spankings had traumatised them and left them with fear and sadness.

The father had said he had an emotional bond with his children, but this had changed after spanking them.

Seeing them under controlled supervision improved and stabilised their relationship, but there were isolated incidents where the children would feel sadness when remembering other previous disciplinary behaviour, the report said.

“Empowering the accused with the correct parenting discipline style will be very important to prevent reoffending.”

Physical discipline, however, affected a child’s trust of their parent and the role the parent plays in protecting their children from harm, the report said.

“It undermines a child’s feeling of safety and trust essential for sharing with a parent, feelings and thoughts that might contribute to their behaviour. It diminishes a child’s sense of safety in seeking parents out to deal with conflict and life’s challenges. Any form of such punishment is a violation of a child’s human spirit, one that has lasting implications for the child’s sense of trust, self-worth and regard for others,” the report said.

“Using physical punishment to stop them from misbehaving only teaches them that it is OK to solve problems with violence. Children learn how this is done from watching their parents use physical violence against them.”

The report assessed the possible cause of the assault and found that the separation from his wife, work and financial stress and being granted full custody of the children by the high court could have contributed. This, however, did not excuse him from the crimes.

“It is my opinion that he wanted to have control over his children. Spanking the victims was to put discipline in place. From the information received, it seems it is safe to assume that the accused didn’t get a thrill from spanking his children. Using corporal punishment is what he was conditioned to do from his childhood. The accused believed that the punishment he implemented promoted effective child socialisation because it taught his children what to do. From his childhood, he has become conditioned to view spanking as normal and accepted.”

The probation officer recommended a suspended sentence with the condition the children be referred to a psychologist or counsellor to address and prevent any long-term impact of the abuse and divorce.

Another condition is that he lose custody of the children. The father had full custody of the children during the divorce proceedings, but this was revoked when his ex-wife opened the assault case against him.

“It is not in the best interest of the children to be placed back in their father’s care, as stated in the high court order, after sentencing.”

Sentencing is expected to take place on May 23.


We’re here to help

At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we’ve helped many parents navigate custody and the difficult scenario of post-divorce parenting relationships. If you have any concerns about your child’s wellbeing when not in your care, contact Cape Town attorney Simon Dippenaar on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in confidence.

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