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The rights and responsibilities of a parent is set out in the Children’s Act 38 of 2008 (the “Children’s Act”) and can be defined as a complex set of rights, duties and responsibilities which have to be performed in the best interest of the child. These rights and responsibilities include the following elements namely: caring of the child, maintaining contact with the child, to act as a guardian over the child and to contribute to the maintenance of the child.
Both parents of a child have equal rights and responsibilities, but when they are not living together, specific rights and responsibilities may be given to one parent, either by court order or agreement between the parents.
The biological mother, whether she is married or not, has full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of her child. She attains those rights solely on the fact that she has given birth to the child.
Married biological fathers
The biological father has full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child if:
Unmarried biological fathers
Despite the increased recognition of the beneficial role that fathers can play in the lives of their children, the Children’s Act still does not confer automatic, inherent parental rights on biological fathers in the same way it does for mothers. According to the Act, an unmarried biological father will have automatic parental rights and responsibilities only if:
If there is a dispute between the biological parents over any of the above criteria, then the question of whether the father has parental responsibilities and rights must be referred for mediation to a family advocate, social worker or other suitably qualified person. Mediation is the process whereby the participants, together with the assistance of a neutral party, systematically isolate disputed issues in order to develop options, consider alternatives and reach a consensual settlement that will accommodate their needs.
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)
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