No, Zimbabwe does not recognize joint custody of children in cases of separation of parents or divorce of parents. Custody of minor children is awarded to one person.
Yes, if the correct circumstances prevail.
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Anyone can be granted custody of a child (become custodian of a child) if a court order for custody of the child is conﬁrmed or granted by a court of law. In Zimbabwe the chances of custody being granted to the mother of a child is very high. The chances of custody being granted to the father of a child is usually not very high unless the mother is proved unﬁt to be custodian of the child. The right to custody can be given to a grandparent by the court or an uncle or aunt can be given custody rights. A non-relative of a child can be given custody rights, if the court order for custody says so.
To get divorced in Zimbabwe, you need to get a court order for divorce. The divorce order is given by the High Court of Zimbabwe. One spouse should apply for divorce and the court process for divorce must be followed to completion.
If the spouses agree to a divorce as well as the divorce terms it is a divorce by consent called an “uncontested divorce” which is quicker and less expensive. This is where both spouses sign the divorce papers agreeing to the terms and asking for a divorce order. In the High Court the cost of divorce by consent, where both agree to a divorce and sign the divorce papers, can be in the range of ZWL 800.00 to ZWL2,000.00 for a simple divorce
Ideally the parents will agree to the child’s maintenance level and then enter into a divorce order by consent including this issue. If the parents cannot agree, then the court will decide. The court will aim to maintain the child’s standard of living pre-separation or pre-divorce as far as possible bearing in mind that the individual spousal disposal income is now less because of the split and two rentals being paid. The court has no rigid formulae for determining maintenance payments. The court has an overriding discretion to decide whatever it thinks is fair maintenance for the child and will look at both incomes being earned by each parent and also the ability to earn income by each parent.
In terms of the Legal Age of Majority Act of 1982, a Zimbabwean minor is a child under the age of 18 years. This means a Zimbabwean person attains majority at the age of 18 years. A Zimbabwean person between the ages of 16 and 18 years is called a ‘young person’ in terms of the Children’s Protection and Adoption Act.
The High Court divorce order will say that the divorce is granted and it may contain various terms of the divorce as applicable such as : property distribution in divorce, spousal maintenance after divorce , custody of children after divorce, access rights to children after divorce, maintenance of children after divorce, etc.
Where one spouse is not consenting to divorce, the spouse refuses to sign the divorce papers, and refuses to agree to the divorce, it is a “contested divorce” which is more time consuming and costly. Such a divorce process will proceed as a contested divorce case and can go all the way as a full divorce trial at court. In the High Court the cost of a contested divorce, where one or both are not agreeing to sign the divorce papers, is charged on a time-spent basis and the legal costs for a divorce is likely to be in the range of ZWL 1,000.00 up to ZWL5,000.00 or more for a complicated divorce or a contested divorce in Zimbabwe
Maintenance is a parent paying money for a child’s costs of upkeep or a spouse paying money for upkeep of the other spouse.
Custody of a child is the right to custody decision-making by the custodian parent. The decisions include the day-to-day activities of a child, the right to choose which school the child goes to, the right to decide what the child wears from day to day, the right to decide where the child spends their time day to day and other day to day decisions of the child.
Guardianship of a child is the right to guardianship decision-making by the guardian of the child. Guardianship decisions include decisions relating to status, the right to consent to child marrying, the right to consent to the sale of property owned by a child, the right to consent to a change of child’s name.
If there is no court order for custody, when parents live apart or parents separate, in terms of Zimbabwean custody law, custody is given to the mother of a child automatically until there is a court order giving custody to someone else. This applies if the parents of the child are married, or if the parents of the child were never married. If there is no court order for custody, by default the mother is granted custody of a child in Zimbabwe (by operation of law) until a court order for custody is granted.
If there is no court order for guardianship, by default the father is granted guardianship of a child (by operation of law) when the parents separate or when the parents start living apart. But the guardianship decision making must be in consultation with the mother, so in fact in Zimbabwe co-guardianship exists where the mother and father both decide.