South African toddlers 'swapped at birth' shouldn't be exchanged: court adviser

Wed Nov 26, 2014 3:54am EST
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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Two South African toddlers accidentally swapped on the day they were born should stay with the families who raised them and not be returned to their biological parents, a court-appointed expert said on Wednesday.

The two children, a boy and a girl who are now aged four, were born on the same day in 2010 in a Johannesburg hospital but ended up being taken home and raised by the wrong parents after nurses mixed up their identities.

The families were unaware of the mistake until one of the mothers underwent tests when her ex-husband refused to pay child maintenance because he believed he was not the father.

One of the mothers had initially wanted to get her biological child back, while the other preferred to keep the one she had raised, leaving the North Gauteng High Court to decide.

The court asked the University of Pretoria's Centre for Child Law to investigate and report back on what would be in the children's best interests, which are given a prominent position in matters concerning minors under South African law.

"The recommendation is that the children should stay with the parents who have raised them and should also be permitted to have contact with their biological parents," said Ann Skelton, director of the center.

The court has not set a date to decide the final fate of the children but Skelton said she was hopeful its recommendation would be followed because it was now what both parents wanted.

"There was one mom who originally wanted to get her biological child back but she has softened her position and she accepts now that it's not really possible," Skelton said.

In May, a lawyer for one of the mothers said the case raised a dilemma on a "biblical scale", referring to a story in the Bible when King Solomon adjudicates in a dispute over a child between two women both claiming to be the infant's mother.

(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Joe Brock and Gareth Jones)