Whether you’re unmarried, or a single parent, there are certain rights and obligations, outlined by South Africa’s Children’s Act, that both parents should know about.
What is the Children’s Act?
The Children’s Act, 38 of 2005 came into effect on 1 July, 2007. This Act governs the laws relating to the care, contact, and the protection of children. It defines the parental responsibilities and rights. It makes provision for the establishment of Children’s Courts and the appointment of welfare officers. The Act also regulates the establishment of places of safety, orphanages and the rights of orphans and it sets out the laws for their adoption. In all cases, the guiding principle is the best interests of the child.
What Does it say About Your Rights?
According to this Act, the biological mother of a child, whether married or unmarried, has full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child. If the biological mother is an unmarried child i.e. the mother is under 18 years of age, and the biological mother does not have guardianship of the child, then the biological father does not have guardianship in respect of the child, but the guardian of the child’s biological mother would also be guardian of the child.
The father’s rights to the child are conditional as they depend on his relationship with the mother. He does not have any automatic parental rights unless he was in a relationship with the mother.
The biological father of a child has full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child if;
- He is married to the child’s mother; or
- He was married to the child’s mother at the time of the child’s conception; the time of the child’s birth; or any time between the child’s conception and birth.
If the biological father of a child is not married to the mother, the father can obtain full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child if:
- At the time of the child’s birth he is living with the mother in a permanent life partnership; or
- Regardless of whether he has lived with or is living with the mother –
- Consents to be identified or successfully applies in terms of section 26 of the children’s act to be identified as a charge father or pays damages in terms of customary law; contributes or has attempted in good faith to contribute to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period; and
- Contributes or has attempted in good faith to contribute towards expenses in connection with the maintenance of the child for a reasonable period.
What are Full Parental Rights and Responsibilities?
1. To care for the child;
2. To maintain contact with the child;
3. To act as guardian of the child; and
4. To contribute to the maintenance of the child.
If there is a dispute between the biological father and the biological mother of a child with regard to the fulfilment of responsibilities, the matter must be referred for mediation to a family advocate, social worker, social service professional or other suitably qualified person.