Child-Centric Justice: Interpreting the Best Interests of the Child in South African Law.

South African courts have long had experience in applying the “best interests” principle in matters such as custody or maintenance.  In our new constitutional order, however, the scope of the best interest’s principle has been greatly enlarged. The best interests of the child principle were articulated in the 1900’s in cases like Cronje v Cronje 1907 TS 871; Tabb v Tabb 1909 TS 1033; Ramsay v Ramsay 1935 SR 84; Mathews v Haswari 1937 WLD 110; Christian v Christian 1945 TPD and in 1948 by the Appellate Division in Fletcher v Fletcher 1948 (1) SA 130 (A), and has since found application in numerous judgments.

In determining a child’s best interests before the enactment of the Children’s Act of 2005, courts referred to the comprehensive criteria set out in McCall v McCall 1994 (3) SA 201 (C). Justice King highlighted 13 pivotal factors for this assessment, encompassing a wide range of considerations:

(a) The emotional connection between parent and child, including love, affection, and compatibility with the child. (b) The parent’s attributes, personality, and temperament, and their influence on the child’s needs and wishes. (c) The parent’s ability to communicate with the child, and their awareness, comprehension, and sensitivity to the child’s emotions. (d) The parent’s capability and willingness to guide the child as needed. (e) The parent’s provision for the child’s basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, and other material needs, ensuring economic stability. (f) The parent’s capacity to cater to the educational, spiritual, and secular well-being and safety of the child. (g) The parent’s provision for the child’s emotional, psychological, cultural, and environmental growth. (h) The mental, physical, and moral integrity of the parent. (i) The stability of the child’s current environment, with consideration for the value of maintaining consistency. (j) The benefits of keeping siblings together. (k) The child’s preference, given weight if the Court believes it should be considered in the specific context. (l) The advisability of applying the principle of same-sex matching. (m) Any other factors relevant to the specific case at hand.

These factors collectively guided the court’s evaluation in establishing what ultimately serves the child’s best interests.

Section 28(2) of the Constitution states: “A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.”

Section 28(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act 108 of 1996, establishes the principle that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child. This provision is a key aspect of children’s rights in South Africa and serves as a fundamental principle guiding all legal and procedural decisions affecting children.

Meaning and Scope

The phrase “best interests of the child” is intentionally broad, allowing for the flexible application to various circumstances involving children. It implies that in every action or decision made by legal, administrative, and judicial entities, the child’s welfare should be the primary consideration. While the child’s best interests are paramount, this does not mean they are the sole consideration.

Other legitimate interests must also be taken into account, ensuring that the application of this principle is both reasonable and practical. The observation S v M (CCT 53/06) [2007] ZACC 18; 2008 (3) SA 232 (CC); 2007 (12) BCLR 1312 (CC); 2007 (2) SACR 539 (CC) (26 September 2007) was that Section 28(2) serves as a “general guideline” rather than a “rule of law of horizontal application” underscores the importance of context in legal decision-making. It suggests that while the best interests of the child are a fundamental consideration, they must be balanced against other considerations and rights, including the rights of others and broader societal needs.

The statement implies that the positive law (statutes and enacted legislation) and any subsequent amendments are necessary to detail how the best interests principle should be applied in specific contexts. This allows for a more nuanced application that considers the complexities of individual cases and the various interests at stake. In practice, courts and policymakers must navigate the delicate balance between upholding the child’s best interests and recognising other legitimate interests.

This balancing act requires careful consideration of all relevant factors and interests in each unique situation, ensuring that decisions are just, equitable, and reflective of the broader legal and social context. Regarding the so-called “rule of law of horizontal application” it was held in Jooste v Botha 2000 (2) SA 199 (T) at 210C-D/E whether, in the interests of a child, the courts could compel a father to show love and care to his child (hence the reference to horizontal application). 

The Court held that there is not a legally enforceable obligation upon parents to love and care for their children.  This is a difficult issue on which this Court need not express an opinion. discusses the normative force of Section 28 of the South African Constitution, particularly subsection 28(2), which establishes a set of enforceable children’s rights that courts are obligated to uphold. This passage elucidates the broad scope and interpretative mandate of Section 28 in advancing and protecting children’s rights within the legal system.

The application of the best interest principle has been given particular consideration by the Constitutional Court. In AD and Another v DW and Others (Centre for Child Law as Amicus Curiae; Department of Social Development as Intervening Party) 2008 (3) SA 183 (CC), the Court had to consider the best interest of a baby girl who was the subject of an adoption application. The Court expressly confirmed that the best interest of a child in adoption proceedings is best protected by following the correct judicial procedures when bringing such applications.

The Court also made an important finding regarding the relationship between the principle of subsidiarity as applied in intercountry adoptions and the best interest principle, stating that the subsidiarity principle was subsidiary to the best interest principle.

In S v M (Centre for Child Law as Amicus Curiae) 2008 (3) SA 232 (CC), the Court had to consider the application of the best interest principle by a sentencing court when dealing with a primary care-giver. The Court emphasised the need for a child-centred approach when determining the best interest of the child and held that section 28 of the Constitution required that:

“[s]tatutes must be interpreted and the common law developed in a manner which favours protecting and advancing the interests of children; and courts must function in a manner which at all times shows due respect for children’s rights” (para 15).

The Court acknowledged the potential problems arising from the expansiveness of the principle that the best interest of a child is a paramount consideration in matters affecting the child. However, it held that such expansiveness made section 28 flexible and that this flexibility constitutes the source of its strength. When determining the best interest of a child, courts must focus on the individual child and examine “the real-life situation of the particular child involved” (para 24).

The Constitutional Court found that although the best interest principle is not absolute and not without problems, its purpose is to safeguard the interests of children individually and collectively. The best interest principle is thus a child-centred approach aimed at protecting the needs and entitlements of children. The unique circumstances of a particular child will determine the different factors to consider in order to secure the best interest of that child.

In essence, the Constitutional Court’s judgments in AD v DW and S v M emphasise the central role of the best interest principle in matters concerning children. The Court’s interpretation of the principle highlights the need for a flexible, individualised approach that prioritises the protection and advancement of children’s rights and interests. The application of the best interest principle requires careful consideration of the specific circumstances of each child, and a commitment to upholding children’s rights in all judicial proceedings affecting them.

Enforcement of Children’s Rights

The case of S v M supra referred to cases like De Reuck v Director of Public Prosecutions, Witwatersrand Local Division, and Others [2004] ZACC 19; 2004 (1) SA 406 (CC); 2003 (12) BCLR 1333 (CC); 2003 (2) SACR 445 (CC), Sonderup v Tondelli and Another [2001] ZACC 5; 2001 (1) SA 1171 (CC); 2001 (2) BCLR 152 (CC), and Minister of Welfare and Population Development v Fitzpatrick and Others [2000] ZACC 6; 2000 (3) SA 422 (CC); 2000 (7) BCLR 713 (CC) to illustrate the Constitutional Court’s approach to children’s rights as substantive legal obligations that must be actively enforced.

The judgment emphasises that the law enforcement and the legal system must always be child-sensitive, requiring statutes to be interpreted, and the common law developed, in a manner that protects and advances children’s interests. This approach is in line with comments by Sloth-Nielsen, who suggests that the constitutionalisation of children’s rights sets a benchmark for reviewing proceedings and decisions affecting children, ensuring that their impact on children’s lives is a primary consideration.

The judgment also links Section 28 to South Africa’s international obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by South Africa on 16 July 1995. Section 28’s development was influenced by international instruments, and the CRC has since become a standard against which domestic legislation and policies are measured, shaping a child rights-centered framework for juvenile justice and broader legal considerations involving children.

The principle of the best interests of the child is one of the four pillars of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) together with non-discrimination (article 2), survival and development (article 6) and child participation (article 12). Article 3(1) of the CRC provides that:

In all actions concerning children whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities, or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

The discussion reflects a transformative shift in the legal approach towards children in South Africa, moving from a parent-centric to a child-centric perspective.

In essence, the judgment underscores that Section 28 of the Constitution not only provides general guidance but establishes enforceable legal rules for children’s rights. The challenge lies in determining reasonable limits for the application of these rights, ensuring that legal decisions and actions are both child-sensitive and aligned with the constitutional vision of protecting and advancing the interests of children. This approach necessitates a parallel change in mindset among legal practitioners, policymakers, and the courts, ensuring that children’s rights are at the forefront of legal and judicial considerations.


The global and constitutional recognition of the “best interests of the child” as a paramount or primary consideration in all matters concerning children, is enshrined in the South African Constitution, the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Despite this universal acknowledgment, the “best interests” standard is not without its critiques and challenges. The principle of the child’s best interests is prominently featured in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), where it is elevated to the status of the primary consideration, a standard that surpasses that of the CRC. Within the CRC, the principle of the child’s best interests is articulated across various provisions.

For example, article 18(1) mandates that parents or legal guardians prioritise the child’s best interests as a fundamental concern; article 21 emphasises that the child’s best interests should be paramount in adoption proceedings; article 9 restricts the separation of children from their parents unless it is essential for the child’s best interests; and Article 37 asserts that children in the criminal justice system must be detained separately from adults, except in cases where such separation would not serve the child’s best interests.

Indeterminacy of the Standard

The criticism that the “best interests” standard is “indeterminate” points to its inherently vague and broad nature. While this allows for flexibility and adaptability to various situations involving children, it also leads to uncertainty and unpredictability in its application. The lack of a precise definition can result in inconsistent and subjective decisions, where the determination of what constitutes the “best interests” can vary significantly among cases, leading to a lack of standardisation in judgments and decisions.

Diverse Professional Perspectives

Different professions, such as legal, social work, and mental health, have varied interpretations of what constitutes the “best interests of the child.” Each profession brings its own set of principles, ethics, and objectives to the table, which can lead to conflicting opinions on what is best for a child in a given situation. For example, legal professionals might focus on rights-based approaches, social workers may prioritise the child’s social and emotional well-being, and mental health professionals might emphasise the psychological aspects. This diversity in perspectives can lead to challenges in reaching a consensus on how to best protect and promote the child’s interests.

Cultural, Social, and Political Influences

The interpretation and application of the “best interests” criterion are heavily influenced by the historical background, cultural, social, political, and economic conditions of a country, as well as the personal values of the decision-maker. This can lead to a broad spectrum of applications of the standard, with potential biases and inconsistencies. For instance, what is considered in the best interests of a child in one cultural context may be viewed differently in another. Additionally, the socio-economic status of a child or family can inadvertently affect the interpretation of their best interests.

While the “best interests of the child” standard is a fundamental principle in child-related legal and social frameworks, its application is fraught with complexity. To mitigate the issues of indeterminacy, differing professional perspectives, and the influence of cultural and personal biases, there is a need for more defined guidelines, interdisciplinary collaboration, and continuous training for professionals involved in child-related cases. Moreover, a more systematic and evidence-based approach, informed by international standards and research, could help in standardising the application of the “best interests” principle, ensuring it genuinely serves the welfare and rights of children across different contexts.

Jurisprudential Impact

Section 28(2) has significantly influenced South African jurisprudence, leading to the development of a body of case law that prioritises children’s rights and interests. Courts frequently reference this section when making decisions in family law cases, such as care and contact disputes, as well as in broader contexts affecting children’s rights.

Paramountcy Principle

The use of the term “paramount” indicates that the child’s best interests are not just one of several considerations but are the overriding concern, but this does not mean that other considerations, such as the rights of parents, are irrelevant, but they must be weighed against the child’s best interests.


The constitutional mandate ensures that the best interests of the child are not only theoretical but are practically enforced in all relevant legal and administrative proceedings. This provision empowers courts and gives them the authority to scrutinise any decision affecting a child, to ensure that their best interests are being served.

Section 28(2) of the South African Constitution fundamentally shifts the focus towards child-centric considerations in all matters affecting children. It ensures that children’s rights and interests are protected and upheld as a priority, reflecting the societal value placed on the well-being of children and the recognition of their vulnerability. This constitutional provision underpins the legal framework that governs child-related matters in South Africa, ensuring that the best interests of children are at the forefront of all pertinent decisions.

The “best interests of the child” is a fundamental principle that underlies the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. This principle is mentioned numerous times throughout the Act, highlighting its significance in all matters concerning the care, protection, and well-being of children in South Africa.

Here are the relevant sections that deal with the “best interests of the child” principle:

Section 7 of the Children’s Act

This section provides a detailed lists of factors for the best interests of child standard:

“(1) Whenever a provision of this Act requires the best interests of the child standard to be applied, the following factors must be taken into consideration where relevant, namely- (a) the nature of the personal relationship between- (i) the child and the parents, or any specific parent; and (ii) the child and any other care-giver or person relevant in those circumstances; (b) the attitude of the parents, or any specific parent, towards- (i) the child; and (ii) the exercise of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child; (c) the capacity of the parents, or any specific parent, or of any other care-giver or person, to provide for the needs of the child, including emotional and intellectual needs; … (g) the child’s- (i) age, maturity and stage of development; (ii) gender; (iii) background; and (iv) any other relevant characteristics of the child; (h) the child’s physical and emotional security and his or her intellectual, emotional, social and cultural development; … (2) In this section “parent” includes any person who has parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child.”

While section 7 shares similarities with the criteria outlined in McCall v McCall, there are notable distinctions. Firstly, section 7’s scope is broader, extending beyond parents to encompass caregivers and other significant individuals in a child’s life. Secondly, in contrast to the McCall criteria, section 7 does not incorporate the concept of ‘same sex matching.’ Nevertheless, it is important to recognise that section 7(a) highlights the significance of the relationship between the child and the parent or caregiver. Thirdly, section 7 does not explicitly mention the provision of economic security but instead emphasises the child’s emotional, intellectual, and spiritual welfare and stability.

Furthermore, section 7 diverges from the McCall list by not specifically mentioning ‘child preference.’ Although section 7(g) considers the child’s maturity and stage of development, which are essential in evaluating the child’s wishes, it does not directly address the child’s desires. However, section 10 of the Act asserts that children must be given the opportunity to participate in proceedings affecting them, establishing this as an independent right and not just an element of their best interests. Thus, in legal proceedings concerning a child, both sections 7 and 10 must be considered.

Lastly, the McCall list was not exhaustive, allowing courts to weigh any relevant factors. In contrast, section 7 does not explicitly invite consideration of additional factors, nor does it start with “including,” which usually suggests an open list. Nonetheless, the Constitutional Court has emphasised that the child’s best interest principle should not adhere to a ‘predetermined formula.’ Consequently, interpreting section 7 as a finite list of factors would contradict this view. Therefore, it can be argued that the High Court and Family Court’s, acting as the upper guardian of minors, must evaluate all pertinent factors, not just those enumerated in section 7, to ascertain a child’s best interests.

Other Sections Dealing with the Best Interests Principle

Section 9 – Best interests of child paramount: “In all matters concerning the care, protection and well-being of a child the standard that the child’s best interest is of paramount importance, must be applied.”

Section 150(1)(h) – Child in need of care and protection: “(1) A child is in need of care and protection if, the child … (h) is in a state of physical or mental neglect.”

Section 156(1) – Orders when child is found to be in need of care and protection: “(1) If a children’s court finds that a child is in need of care and protection the court may make any order which is in the best interests of the child…”

Section 157 – Court orders to be aimed at securing stability in child’s life: “(1) Before a children’s court makes an order in terms of section 156 for the removal of the child from the care of the child’s parent or care-giver, the court must- (a) obtain and consider a report by a designated social worker on the conditions of the child’s life…”

Section 230 – Child who may be adopted: “(1) Any child may be adopted if- (a) the adoption is in the best interests of the child; (b) the child is adoptable; and (c) the provisions of this Chapter are complied with.”

Section 240 – Consideration of adoption application: “(2) A children’s court considering an application may make an order for the adoption of a child only if- (a) the adoption is in the best interests of the child;”

Section 295 – Confirmation by court (surrogate motherhood agreement): “A court may not confirm a surrogate motherhood agreement unless … (e) in general, having regard to the personal circumstances and family situations of all the parties concerned, but above all the interests of the child that is to be born, the agreement should be confirmed.”

These sections demonstrate the central role that the “best interests of the child” principle plays in the Children’s Act. The Act requires that this principle be applied in all matters concerning the care, protection, and well-being of children, and provides guidance on the factors to be considered when determining what is in a child’s best interests. The principle is also specifically mentioned in relation to orders made by children’s courts, adoption applications, and the confirmation of surrogate motherhood agreements. The consistent emphasis on the “best interests of the child” throughout the Act underscores the importance of prioritising the child’s welfare in all decisions and actions affecting them.

Forensic social workers and psychologists play a crucial role in interpreting and applying the principle of “the best interests of the child” within the judicial system. Their expertise is often pivotal in court cases involving child welfare, care and contact disputes, and child protection matters. However, the subjective nature of the best interests standard can lead to misinterpretations and unintended consequences, affecting the lives of the children involved.

The principle of the best interests of the child, while noble in intent, is inherently broad and open to interpretation. This vagueness can be a double-edged sword, offering flexibility but also creating room for subjective biases and inconsistencies. Forensic social workers and psychologists, despite their training and intentions, may inadvertently project personal biases, cultural norms, or professional experiences onto their assessments, skewing the interpretation of what constitutes the child’s best interests.

Professionals in the field come from diverse backgrounds and carry their own sets of beliefs, values, and cultural norms. These personal and cultural biases can influence their evaluations and decisions, even unconsciously. For example, a professional’s belief about family structures, gender roles, or parenting styles can affect their assessment of a child’s familial environment and the recommendations they make to the court.

Forensic social workers and psychologists might place undue emphasis on specific aspects of a child’s life, such as academic performance or behavioural issues, without adequately considering the broader context. This overemphasis can lead to recommendations that fail to account for the child’s overall emotional, social, and psychological well-being. For instance, prioritising educational achievement without recognising the impact of familial relationships or emotional stability can lead to decisions that do not truly serve the child’s comprehensive needs.

The complex nature of child welfare cases often requires a multidisciplinary approach. However, professionals may operate in silos, focusing narrowly on their field of expertise without integrating insights from other relevant disciplines. This isolation can lead to a fragmented understanding of the child’s situation, with forensic social workers and psychologists potentially missing critical information that could influence their interpretation of the best interests principle.

Forensic social workers and psychologists face ethical and professional dilemmas when interpreting the best interests of the child. The pressure to conform to legal expectations, institutional policies, or the opinions of colleagues can impact their objectivity. Navigating these pressures while maintaining professional integrity and prioritising the child’s welfare can be challenging, sometimes leading to compromised assessments.

To mitigate these risks, continuous training and education in cultural competence, ethical decision-making, and interdisciplinary collaboration are essential. Professionals should engage in self-reflection to recognise and address personal biases and ensure that their assessments are holistic and child-centered. Regular peer reviews and multidisciplinary case conferences can provide additional perspectives and help balance individual biases, leading to more comprehensive and accurate interpretations of the best interests standard.

The interpretation of the best interests of the child by forensic social workers and psychologists is a task of monumental importance and complexity. While these professionals are committed to advocating for children’s welfare, the subjective nature of the best interests principle can lead to misinterpretations. Addressing the inherent challenges of this principle requires a concerted effort to ensure that decisions are made with a balanced, informed, and truly child-centric approach. By acknowledging and mitigating the risks of subjective bias and emphasising a holistic, multidisciplinary methodology, forensic social workers and psychologists can more effectively serve the best interests of the children they are tasked to protect.

In exploring the practical aspects of determining a child’s best interests, courts and scholars face complex questions. These include identifying the decision-maker for a child’s best interests, deciding whether the focus should be on individual children or children as a group, and determining the relevant time frame for assessing these interests. Additionally, there’s debate over whether to prioritise the best interests as a primary, the primary, or a paramount consideration.

The ambiguity and breadth of the “best interests of the child” concept, while allowing adaptability, can potentially hinder the full realisation of children’s rights. However, this flexibility also aligns with the normative values of the CRC, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and the South African Constitution, providing room for tailored implementation in specific circumstances. The South African Constitutional Court, in S v M (2008) ZACC 18, emphasised the strength of Section 28’s contextual nature and flexibility, advocating for an individualised, contextualised, and child-centered determination of a child’s best interests, as discussed by Justice Heaton in her analysis.

Section 28(2) of the Constitution has broadened the application of the best interests principle beyond traditional family law, impacting virtually all laws and actions concerning children, as noted in S v M. While this elevates the best interests concept in child-related matters, it doesn’t imply that these interests always outweigh other constitutional rights. The court in S v M called for a balanced application of the paramountcy principle, ensuring that other significant and constitutionally protected interests are not unjustly compromised.

However, there has been inconsistency in judicial language, with references to the best interests of the child as a right, principle, or standard, leading to potential confusion about its application and effect. Cases like Christian Education South Africa v Minister of Education (2000) ZACC 11 and C v Department of Health and Social Development, Gauteng (2012) ZACC 1, illustrate this inconsistency, revealing a need for clearer understanding and articulation of the best interests principle within the legal framework.

The CRC’s General Comment No 14 provides guidance on interpreting the best interests principle, yet South African courts have yet to fully grapple with the essence of Section 28(2) and consistently apply it as a defined legal rule. This ongoing ambiguity underscores the necessity for a more nuanced judicial approach to the best interests principle, ensuring it serves as an effective tool in upholding children’s rights without overshadowing other critical constitutional protections.

Understanding the principle that a child’s best interests are of paramount importance necessitates integrating children’s rights into every area that affects them. This principle doesn’t automatically place children’s rights above all others, but emphasises recognising children as active rights holders. Moving beyond viewing children’s rights solely in terms of welfare, it is vital to consider these rights in broader contexts, including how they intersect with the rights of others.

Children’s rights can be limited like any fundamental right, but such limitations must be judiciously determined. This necessitates recognising these rights and then evaluating the unique circumstances of each child to understand what factors contribute to their best interests. This process involves a detailed analysis of the child’s specific situation and a balanced consideration of how these interests align or conflict with other rights.

In legal judgments, it is crucial not only to acknowledge the child’s best interests but also to clearly articulate why these interests might not prevail over other considerations when that is the case. The Constitutional Court’s approach in certain cases, illustrates an understanding of the need to balance children’s best interests with other fundamental rights comprehensively. Criticisms of these judgments, suggesting a bias towards children’s rights, overlook the necessity of this balanced approach. Proper legal analysis requires a nuanced examination of how children’s actions, even when seemingly mischievous, are weighed against the rights and dignities of others within the legal framework, guided by both international and national legal standards.

The interpretation of what constitutes the best interests of the child can be complex, as it encompasses a broad range of factors, including emotional, physical, and educational well-being. Courts and child welfare professionals must consider each child’s unique circumstances, such as their family environment, health status, and educational needs, to make decisions that genuinely reflect their best interests.

However, the broad nature of the best interests standard also poses challenges. Critics argue that its indeterminate nature can lead to inconsistent application and decisions that may not always align with the individual child’s needs. Therefore, continuous efforts and specialised training are essential for those involved in making decisions affecting children, ensuring that they have the expertise to interpret and apply this principle effectively.

One of the critical aspects of the best interests principle is its role in balancing competing rights and interests. While the child’s welfare is paramount, it does not exist in isolation; it must be weighed against other rights and considerations, such as parental rights and societal norms. This balancing act requires a nuanced approach, ensuring that the child’s rights are protected without unduly infringing on the rights of others.

For instance, in care and contact disputes, courts must balance the child’s need for stability with the parental rights to maintain a relationship with the child. Similarly, in education, the best interests principle may involve balancing the child’s right to education with their need for a supportive and nurturing environment.

Globally, the best interests of the child principle is recognised and applied in various legal systems, albeit with differences in interpretation and emphasis. In some jurisdictions, the principle is applied broadly, influencing decisions in a wide range of matters affecting children, while in others, its application may be more limited to specific contexts such as family law disputes.

In South Africa, the best interests of the child are deeply embedded in the legal system, influencing decisions across a spectrum of issues, from family law to education and social welfare. South African courts have consistently emphasised the importance of this principle, striving to ensure that children’s rights and welfare are at the forefront of legal and social decision-making processes.

The best interests of the child principle represent a critical legal and ethical standard in safeguarding children’s rights and well-being. While its application can be challenging due to its broad and flexible nature, it remains a vital tool in ensuring that children are treated with the care, respect, and dignity they deserve. As society evolves, so too will the interpretation and application of this principle, reflecting our collective commitment to nurturing and protecting the rights of the child in an ever-changing world.

Written by Bertus Preller, a Family Law and Divorce Law attorney and Mediator at Maurice Phillips Wisenberg in Cape Town. A blog, managed by SplashLaw, for more information on Family Law read more here.