Towards a more uniform approach to parenting coordination in South Africa




Co-parenting conflict, high-conflict relationship, family dispute resolution processes, family mediation, parenting coordination, parenting coordinator, decision-making powers, best interests of the child, parental responsibilities and rights, parenting disputes, divorce, relationship breakdown, parenting plans, settlement agreements, interdisciplinary collaboration, child-centred team-building approach, co-parental solidarity, parallel co-parenting, unlawful delegation of judicial authority, Family Dispute Resolution Bill, 2020, Children’s Act 38 of 2005, Guidelines on the Practice of Parenting Coordination in South Africa


Because of the need to mitigate the damage done to children by chronic conflict between co-parents after divorce or family breakdown, the process of parenting coordination has been embraced by South African courts. In terms of the process, a parenting coordinator will first attempt to facilitate resolution of the parenting disputes by agreement of the parties, but if this attempt fails, the parenting coordinator has the power to make directives regarding the disputes which are binding on the parties until a competent court directs otherwise or the parties jointly agree otherwise. Although parenting coordination has flourished over the past decade, there still seems to be uncertainty and a lack of uniformity about various aspects regarding the process and the role and functions of a parenting coordinator. First of all, we have the Guidelines on the Practice of Parenting Coordination in South Africa (SA Guidelines), drafted by a task team of the National Accreditation Board for Family Mediators (NABFAM) to provide guidance for parenting coordinators concerning minimum qualifications, ethical obligations and conduct, practice and procedure, and children’s participation in the process. In addition, the South African Law Reform Commission published the draft Family Dispute Resolution Bill, 2020, which deals with the process of parenting coordination in Chapter 7. Very importantly, we also have various court decisions dealing with parenting coordination in South Africa, which provide some guidance. However, the SA Guidelines, the provisions of Chapter 7 of the Bill and our court decisions are not always aligned and provide different answers to important underlying theoretical questions about various issues, such as the circumstances under which a parenting coordinator should be appointed; the issues that could be dealt with by a parenting coordinator; whom to appoint as a parenting coordinator; the approach to be followed in the parenting coordination process; the inclusion of children in the parenting coordination process; the nature of the parenting coordination process; confidentiality in the process; and a parenting coordinator’s relationship with the court and the parties’ legal representatives. A lack of consensus regarding these issues has given rise to diverse practices among professionals and confusion for all involved in the parenting coordination process. This article therefore endeavours to provide more clarity and certainty on these issues, taking international best practice into account.


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Author Biography

Madelene De Jong, University of Limpopo

Prof/Dr Madelene (Leentjie) de Jong completed her BLC degree in 1984 and her LLB degree in 1986 at the University of Pretoria. She started her working career in Pretoria in 1987 as a candidate attorney at Couzyn, Hertzog & Horak Inc. After her admission as an attorney of the High Court of South Africa, she joined Du Plessis & Eksteen, where she practised as an attorney from 1989 to 1990. She joined Unisa in 1991 as a lecturer in Family Law in the Department of Private Law. She was promoted to a senior lectureship in 1994, an associate professorship in 2004 and a full professorship in 2008. She retired from Unisa at the end of 2019 and is now a full-time mediator, parenting coordinator and divorce liquidator. She was also appointed as a research associate in the School of Law at the University of Limpopo at the end of 2020.

In 2003 she obtained her LLD degree from Unisa on the strength of a thesis entitled “Divorce mediation in South Africa – a comparative study”. She is the co-author of four books and has published many articles on family law and, more specifically, matrimonial property law upon divorce, maintenance matters, divorce or family mediation, family arbitration and parenting coordination in various legal journals. In 2008 and 2013 she received the Hugo de Groot prize for the best short contribution to the Journal of Contemporary Roman Dutch Law and in 2018 she received the Hugo de Groot prize for the best article in this journal. Prof De Jong is a C1 NRF rated researcher.

She has delivered papers at various national and international conferences, mainly on alternative family dispute resolution, matrimonial property law and maintenance matters.

Dr de Jong is accredited as a divorce and family mediator and a parenting coordinator by the South African Association of Mediators (SAAM). She has been practising as a part-time family mediator since 2004.

She is presently serving on the advisory committee of the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project 100D (Family Dispute Resolution: Care of and Contact with Children) and acting as project leader of the advisory committee of the South African Law Reform Commission’s Project 100B (Review of the Maintenance Act 99 of 1998).

She is also serving on the Board of Management of Child Welfare Tshwane and the Board of Management of SAAM.




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Case law

Central Authority v TK 2015 5 SA 408 (GPJ)

Centre for Child Law v NN and NS (GNP) (unreported) case number 32053/2014 of 16 November 2015

CM v NG 2012 4 SA 452 (WCC)

H v H (SGJ) (unreported) case number 06274/2012 of 10 September 2012

Hummel v Hummel (SGJ) (unreported) case number 06274/2012 of 10 September 2012

LM v Goldstein 2016 1 SA 465 (GPJ)

M v V (Born N) 2011 JOL 27045 (WCC)

Minister of Welfare and Population Development v Fitzpatrick 2000 3 SA 422 (CC)

S v M (Centre for Child Law as Amicus Curiae) 2008 3 SA 232 (CC)

S v S (GSJ) (unreported) case number 2019/13892 of 12 February 2020

Schneider v Aspeling 2010 3 All SA 332 (WCC)

Sonderup v Tondelli 2001 1 SA 1171 (CC)

SW v SW 2015 6 SA 300 (ECP)

TC v SC 2018 4 SA 530 (WCC)

Van der Merwe v Bruwer and Van der Merwe (WCC) (unreported) case number 12624/18 of 21 December 2018


Children's Act 38 of 2005

Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

Legal Practice Act 28 of 2014

Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013

Government publications

Draft Family Dispute Resolution Bill, 2020

Uniform Rules of Court, as amended

Internet sources

DLP Compliance 2020 Ultimate Guide to the POPIA – South Africa's Privacy Law accessed 13 September 2021

Family Mediators' Association of the Cape 2016 Guidelines on the Practice of Parenting Coordination in South Africa accessed 1 October 2021



How to Cite

De Jong, M. (2022). Towards a more uniform approach to parenting coordination in South Africa. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 25, (Published 28 July 2022) pp 1 – 37.