Legal and Practical Aspects of Child Custody, Visitation and Maintenance: A Case Study in SNNP Regional State

AuthorNigussie Afesha
PositionNigussie Afesha (LLB, MA), Assistant Professor, College of Law and Governance, School of Law, Hawassa University. The author can be reached at <>.
Legal and Practical Aspects of Child
Custody, Visitation and Maintenance:
A Case Study in SNNP Regional State
Nigussie Afesha
Although divorce disrupts the marital bond thereby terminating marital rights
and obligations, each parent’s obligations to the wellbeing and upbringing of
children (custody, visitation rights, and maintenance) persists. This article
examines the practice of courts with regard to child custody, visitation rights
and obligation to supply maintenance in the Southern Nations, Nationalities
and Peoples (SNNP) Regional State. The experience of various court decisions
in SNNP Regional State with respect to these matters is explored. Since the
laws do not have detailed provisions that regulate the various issues of child
custody, visitation and child support, there is inconsistency in judicial
decisions. Many decisions do not distinguish between physical and legal
custody. As a result, the legal and physical custody of the child usually rest on
the same person. With regard to visitation, there is variation in court decisions
although the conventional arrangement seems standard visitation. In some
cases, courts specify the duration and form of visitation. However, in many
cases, courts do not indicate how and when visitation shall be allowed. There
are cases where courts overlook the issue of visitation. There is also
inconsistency in court decisions with regard to child support. These problems
call for detail provisions to ensure consistency and predictability in child
custody, visitation and child support decisions.
Key terms
Family · Divorce · Child custody · Visitation · Maintenance
Received: 8 August 2017 Accepted: 30 December 2017
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-
NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
Nigussie Afesha (LLB, MA), Assistant Professor, College of Law and Governance,
School of Law, Hawassa University. The author can be reached at
I thank my colleagues Dr. Beza Dessalegn and Mr. Bisrat Mulug eta (Hawassa
University, school of law) for their comments and insightful suggestions. I am also grateful
to Dr. Elias N. Stebek and the anonymous reviewers for their contribution toward the
improvement of the article.
276 MIZAN LAW REVIEW, Vol. 11, No.2 December 2017
Family has been understood as an essential element in human life.1 “It is of
great legal interest because of the decisive role it has historically played in the
raising and socialization of children and in mutual economic support of its
members”.2 In this sense, family is considered as the natural and “fundamental
unit of a society”.3 Marriage, one of the essential ways to form a family, is
usually considered the most fundamental building block of human societies.4
Thus, the institution of marriage, found practically in all human societies,5
strives mainly to establish a stable framework in which children are cared for
and supported, both emotionally and financially.6 It should be noted that the
continuation of a marital relationship is an indispensable foundation to achieve
such function of the institution of marriage. Such essence of institution of
marriage will subsist if and only if spouses are willing to live together and the
marital relation does not come to an end. A change in the status of the spouses
(from married to single) may alter the rights and responsibilities of the parents
over their children. Divorce is one of the legal mechanisms through which
spouses can change their legal status to single, and set aside the matrimonial
bonds and marital rights and obligations, except for those obligations that persist
by law (for instance post-divorce upbringing of children).7 It is meant to say that
“[d]ivorce is fundamentally a dispute between the husband and wife, and
regardless of the reasons for their separation, the bond between parent and child
It is understandable that a decision to divorce is a difficult one and most
painful when children are involved. The split of parents has negative impact
1Bruce W. Frier and Thomas A.J. McGinn (2004), A Casebook on Roman Family Law,
published by Oxford University Press, New York, p. 3.
2 Ibid.
3 See article 34(3) of the FDRE and the SNNP Regional State Constitution.
4 Frier and McGinn, supra note 1, p. 25.
5 Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman (2003), “Marriage and the Economy” in the
Shoshana A. Grossbard-Shechtman (ed.) Marriage and the Economy: Theory and
Evidence from Advanced Industrial Societies, Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, pp.1-36, p. 1.
6 Barbara Stark (2005), International Family Law: An Introduction, Ashgate Publishing
Company, USA, p. 14.
7 Id., p. 75.
8 Takao Tanase (2011), “Divorce and the Best Interest of the Child: Disputes over
Visitation and the Japanese Family Courts”, Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal, Vol.,
20, No 3, pp. 563-588, p. 571.

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