Father battles for 3 years to finally see his child. This he did with the help of a social worker, lawyer and the court. He now has regular contact to his child.
Custody, Contact and Guardianship are parental responsibilities of all parents. Once the child is born, both parents not only have a right but a duty to form part of a child’s life. This is also the right of the child. Therefore, a parent cannot deny the other parent from exercising his or her parental responsibilities and rights. The Courts have a duty to ensure that a child’s best interests are met when approached. It is therefore of paramount importance that parents ensure that parental responsibilities and rights are exercise and enforced where necessarily. This includes the responsibility of paying child maintenance.
Before we head into the article, let us first outline what the law says on the parental responsibilities of parents. In the end, we will deal with the law regarding the inclusion of a father’s name on the child’s birth certificate.
Read further to what the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 says about parental responsibilities and rights. You can skip this section by clicking here.
The Children’s Act 38 of 2005
Section 18 of the Children’s Act 38 of 38 2005 states the following:
“(1) A person may have either full or specific parental responsibilities or rights in respect of a child.
(2) The parental responsibilities and rights that a person may have in respect of a Child, include the responsibility and the right-
(a) To care for the child;
(b) To maintain contact with the child;
(c) To act as guardian of the child; and
(d) To contribute to the maintenance of the child.
(3) Subject to subsections (4) and (5), a parent or other person who acts as guardian of a child must
(a) Administer and safeguard the child’s property and property interests;
(b) Assist or represent the child in administrative, contractual and other legal Matters; or
(c) Give or refuse any consent required by law in respect of the child, including-
(I) consent to the child marriage
(ii) Consent to the child adoption;
(iii) Consent to the child departure or removal from the Republic;
(iv) Consent to the child application for a passport; and
(v) Consent to the alienation or encumbrance of any immovable property of the child.
(4) Whenever more than one person has guardianship of a child, each one of them is competent, subject to subsection (5), any other law or any order of a competent court to the contrary, to exercise independently and without the consent of the other any right or responsibility arising from such guardianship.
(5) Unless a competent court orders otherwise, the consent of all the persons that have guardianship of a child is necessary in respect of matters set out in subsection (3)(c).”
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Father’s right to his child
If you are a parent and confronted with a situation where you are denied rights to your child; read on. Notwithstanding this article has been written in relation to the rights of a father; a mother can find it useful too.
Mike was a typical office worker, age 25. He lived with his parents and was studying part-time to earn his teaching degree. This is where he met Mary, on a Saturday morning, when visiting the campus library. She was in her final year of medicine. One thing led to another and 6 months later, Mary fell pregnant. Marry came from a wealthy family. Her father was a businessman and her mother a psychology professor. What’s more, Mary was the only child. When her parents found out who the father was, they forbid her to see him. According to them, he was unworthy of their daughter.
Read on to find out the meaning of Care and Contact as provide for in the Children’s Act 38 of 2005. You can skip this section by click here.
Meaning of Care
The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 defines care as follows:
Care in relation to a child, includes, where appropriate-
(a) Within available means, providing the child with-
(i) a suitable place to live;
(ii) Living conditions that are conducive to the child’s health well-being and development; and
(iii) The necessary financial support;
(b) Safeguarding and promoting the well-being of the child;
(c) protecting the child from maltreatment, abuse, neglect, degradation, discrimination, exploitation and any other physical, emotional or moral harm or hazards;
(d) respecting, protecting, promoting and securing the fulfilment of, and guarding against any infringement of, the child rights set out in the Bill of Rights and the principles set out in Chapter 2 of this Act;
(e) guiding, directing and securing the child education and upbringing, including religious and cultural education and upbringing, in a manner appropriate to the child age, maturity and stage of development; guiding, advising and assisting the child in decisions to be taken by the child in a manner appropriate to the child age, maturity and stage of development;
(g) Guiding the behaviour of the child in a humane manner;
(h) Maintaining a sound relationship with the child;
(I) accommodating any special needs that the child may have; and
(j) Generally, ensuring that the best interests of the child is the paramount Concern in all matters affecting the child;
According to the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, contact means the following:
Contact in relation to a child, means-
(a) Maintaining a personal relationship with the child; and
(b) If the child lives with someone else-
(I) communication on a regular basis with the child in person, including-
(AA) visiting the child; or
(Bb) being visited by the child; or
(ii) Communication on a regular basis with the child in any other manner,
(AA) through the post; or
(Bb) by telephone or any other form of electronic communication;
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Mike tried very hard to find out how the pregnancy was going along. All cell phone calls were blocked and he was refused access to Mary’s home. He felt obligated to make some type of contribution towards the gynaecological and other medical expenses. He spoke to his family about the situation, and they too were very stressed out. This would be the first grandchild and experienced a profound sense of responsibility.
They met Mary once and liked her very much. She was smart, pretty and easy going. They then consulted with a family lawyer. The advice was to wait until the child was born and then to enforce parental responsibilities and rights. The lawyer, however, wrote a letter to Mary saying that Mike wants to be part and parcel of the child’s life, even before the birth. Furthermore, Mike wants to contribute towards the medical expenses incurred thus far and any future expenses. Needless to say, the letter was ignored. The Lawyer then advised that they wait until the child was born and then enforce his parental responsibilities and rights.
The Birth and Registration
Obviously, Mike was not at the birth of his child. That saddened him very much. Mike then found out through a friend of Mary that she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. The name Mary gave him was Mark. That was great news for Mike. His parents were also very happy. When Mary registered Mark at the Department of Home Affairs, she did not stipulate that Mike was the father. As Mike thus far did not spend any money on the birth or on his son, he opened an investment account where he deposited money into each month.
Mike then set up a meeting with his lawyer. He explained to him that he wanted to see his son, who was almost 2 months old. The lawyer knew this was a sensitive matter, in that nothing was known about the current circumstances of Mary and Mark. They needed to approach this matter very delicately. All that Mike wanted at this stage was to see his son.
The lawyer then wrote a letter to Mary asking that his client, Mike, could see Mark for a few minutes at a convenient place and time for Mary. The lawyer made use of the office of the Sheriff to serve the letter to ensure that Mary receives it. On receipt of the latter, Mary showed it to her father. Her father then met with his lawyer. They replied to the letter advising that Mary wants nothing to do with Mike. According to them, it would not be in the child’s best interests for Mike to make any contact with him. They advise that should Mike persist in wanting to meet with Mark, they are instructed to launch an application to the court for harassment.
Mikes’ lawyer then again advised him of his rights. The difficulty that he had was he knew nothing about the personal circumstances of Mary and Mark. All he knew was that Mark was about 4 months old, living with Mary and her parents. He did not know whether Mary was working or studying, whether Mark was being breastfed and so on. It is therefore difficult to enforce one’s rights, or demand for rights to be enforced under those circumstances. Mike’s lawyer then recommended that a social worker is approached for advice and support on this matter. It is possible that the social worker could mediate the matter.
When Mike met with the Social worker he told her everything he knew about Marry and Mark. However, information after the birth of Mark was limited. Basically, all he knew was that he was a boy. He did not even know his son’s date of birth. The Social worker appreciated the sensitivity of the matter. She agreed that due to not knowing what the actual circumstances were, the way forward is challenging. Although Mike is the father of Mark and has parental rights, that should not be enforced without considering Mark’s best interests.
The Social worker then agreed that she will try to contact Mary. She sends Mary a letter advising her that she was instructed by Mike to arrange contact between him and his son. Needless to say, Mary did not reply to the letter. The Social worker subsequently decided to call Mary. Mary answered and said she doesn’t want to speak to the social worker and that she must leave her alone. The Social worker then met with Mike and his lawyer, and they concluded that the only way forward was to ask for the help of the Court.
The Court Application
Mikes lawyer then drafted an Urgent Application to the Western Cape High Court. The relief requested was for reasonable supervised contact until Mark is a year old, and then unsupervised contact. What was also requested, was an Order that the Office of the Family Advocate investigates the matter and provide a report to the Court? The Application was filed and served on Mary. Needless to say, she appointed attorneys to oppose the application.
Mary submitted an opposing affidavit. Her argument was that Mark does not know his father, and it would be best that he only has contact when he is considerably older. But for now, contact rights should be suspended. Mike obviously replied with a replying affidavit.
First High Court hearing date
On the hearing date, the Court played it safe. The Judge first wanted the Office of the Family Advocate to intervene and provide a report for the Court to consider. Mike’s advocate did not argue with the Judge on this point. The matter was then postponed for a period of 3 months for the report.
Family Advocate’s Report
On the return date, the Court had before it the report of the Office of the Family Advocate. They consulted with Mike and Mary, and it so happens, they came to an agreement regarding phased in contact rights. It was agreed that contact would be exercised at her home, once a week for the first 2 months. Thereafter contact would be every week until Mark is a year old. Once he turns 1, Mike would be able to take Mark with to his home for a period of 4 hours. Further contact would then be relooked at once Mark is 2 years old. At this point, overnight contact may be considered.
Mike also offered to pay child maintenance and put Mark on his medical aid as a beneficiary. Mary was happy to hear this as she was the one who solely supported Mark. Her parents were getting fed-up with all the expenses involved.
Next High Court date
The Judge was very happy that the parties came to an agreement. She subsequently made the agreement and Order of Court. According to the report, Mike met Mark at the Office of the family advocate and spent about a half an hour with him. The report also stated that Mike visited Mark at Mary’s home and bonded. Therefore, according to the Court, this was the best type of arrangement as the parties drafted their own agreement. If they did not settle the matter, the Court could make an Order, which both parties may be unhappy with or unwilling to implement. The Court, therefore, made the settlement agreement an Order of Court.
Father’s name on the birth’s registry
Mike exercised contact as per the High Court Order. When he requested Mark’s birth certificate in order to put him on his Medical Aid Scheme, he noticed his name was not on it. Mike then approached the Department of Home Affairs for a change of the birth records. Mary co-operated and the changes were made. Mike was now mentioned as the father on Marks’s birth certificate.
This is the law applicable
Section 11 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992
Section 11 of the Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992 deals with the amendment of birth registration of a child born out of wedlock. An extract of the Act is as follows:
Amendment of birth registration of child born out of wedlock
(1) Any parent of a child born out of wedlock whose parents married each other after the registration of his or her birth, may, if such child is a minor, or such child himself or herself may, if he or she is of age, apply in the prescribed manner to the Director-General to amend the registration of his or her birth as if his or her parents were married to each other at the time of his or her birth, and thereupon the Director-General shall, if satisfied that the applicant is competent to make the application, that the alleged parents of the child are in fact his or her parents and that they legally married each other, amend the registration of birth in the prescribed manner as if such child’s parents were legally married to each other at the time of his or her birth.
(2) If the parents of a child born out of wedlock marry each other before notice of his or her birth is given, notice of such birth shall be given and the birth registered as if the parents were married to each other at the time of his or her birth.
(4) A person who wishes to acknowledge himself to be the father of a child born out of wedlock, may, in the prescribed manner, with the consent of the mother of the child, apply to the Director-General, who shall amend the registration of the birth of such child by recording such acknowledgement and by entering the prescribed particulars of such person in the registration of the birth of such child.
(4A) An amendment of the particulars of a person who has acknowledged himself as a father of a child as contemplated in subsection (4) and section 10(1)(b) of the Act shall be supported by the prescribed conclusive proof of that person being the father of the child.
(5) Where the mother of a child has not given her consent to the amendment of the registration of the birth of her child in terms of subsection (4), the father of such a child shall apply to the High Court of competent jurisdiction for a declaratory order which confirms his or her paternity of the child and dispenses with the requirement of consent of the mother contemplated in subsection (4).
(6) When the court considers the application contemplated in subsection (5) the provisions of section 26(b) of the Children’s Act shall apply.
Although Mike and Mary never became a couple again, they learned to accept the reality of their situation and tried to make the best of it. If there were any issues, they always referred back to the Order the Court made. Even though it took Mike almost 3 years to obtain regular contact, he says it was worth it.
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How do I obtain contact, custody or visitation to my child? I need some advice and assistance. Issues of child custody, visitation or guardianship rights are usually difficult for parents to deal with. Parents have an inherent right and duty to form part of their child's lives. Here we refer to parental rights and responsibilities. However, it often happens that parents of a child cannot see eye to eye as to what is in their child's best interests. More often than not, when parents are divorced, separated, or not living together, issues arise regarding the children they share. And then there is the case where parents want full custody over their children. These issues may range from the amount of contact the other parent may have, the school the child may attend, or what extra-mural activities the child should pursue. Either way, should parents not be on the same page, outside help may be required. Read on to find out more about the law, factors and your rights. With some advice, your situation may become easier. What are Parental Responsibilities and rights to a child? Know your rights: The terms used to refer to the rights and responsibilities of parents ...Read More
Zoom webinar during Woman's Month hosted by Advocate Muhammad Abdurof - Child Custody and Relocation Below the video are some of the questions posed by the registrants that were not answered during the webinar held on 21 August 2020 at 11:00, hosted by Advocate Muhammad Abduroaf. Q: The father has only been paying half the maintenance - he was only covering the minor schooling. Now he has decided to study full time and stopped paying the minor school fees. The minors Contract at school has been terminated and is currently not attending school. I am unable to find a school at this time since half the year is gone. I am currently filing a maintenance application. A: We presume that there is no maintenance order in place. If that is the case, approaching the maintenance court is the correct thing to do. It sounds unreasonable for the father to only pay half the maintenance. The same applies to him stopping paying school fees. The court would listen to both sides and decide what is a fair amount for the father to pay despite him deciding not to work. If there is a court order in place, the court should enforce ...Read More
Questions parents ask in child custody disputes. What are some of the difficulties parents face when dealing with child custody issues and problems? When parents have issues and difficulties regarding their parental responsibilities and rights, they often go online for answers. These issues can relate to contact rights or guardianship issues. One parent may want to have more contact, and the other parent refuses such a request. Or a parent wants to relocate with a minor child, and the other parent refuses guardianship consent. Whatever the issues are, they need to be resolved in the child’s best interests. Read on for some interesting questions parents ask online. Does the abuse of alcohol affect the outcome of a child custody case? Abusing alcohol is very dangerous. Not only for you but for your relationship and parenting as well. If a parent abuses alcohol in the presence of a child, then the child is in danger, or at the very least, in a potential neglectful situation. If both parents abuse alcohol, then the case is much more serious and social welfare needs to get involved. On the issue of a child custody case, the abuse of alcohol is material and would play ...Read More
Child Custody battles. What are the frequently asked questions mothers and fathers pose when it comes to children disputes? Our courts are inundated with child custody matters. Parents who were once in love and supportive of each other, now find themselves embroiled in a very sensitive and emotional legal battle. The question that is posed; who can best care for the minor child? Is it the mother or the father? Should things remain the same, or is a change warranted. As you would see below, when deciding on where a child should primarily reside, the court would need to determine what is best for the child. The court is hardly concerned with the wishes and preferences of the parents. Their interests are secondary. However, the court has to consider all factors. That includes the domestic situation of both parents and their ability to care for the child. I am worried about my child custody case. How can a father lose a child custody battle? A father will lose a child custody battle if he cannot prove that it is in the child’s best interest that he has custody over the child concerned. It is important when either parent wants a ...Read More
What are child custody disputes? Read some questions and answer from mother and father. Child custody disputes are one aspect of family law that keeps both lawyers and the courts busy. Although child custody disputes may seem simple in the eyes of the outside observer, it is not always so for the parties involved. Parents care much more for their children than they do for worldly things. Therefore, should they experience problems concerning their children, it often causes a lot of anxiety and stress. Below are some questions mothers and fathers usually pose online when it comes to child custody disputes. Feel free to pose your questions below. What are the rights of an unmarried father to his children? Fathers of children born out of wedlock do not automatically have rights towards their children. For you to form part of such a child’s life you need to fulfil the requirements of section 21 of the Children’s Act, which in short states: At the time of the child’s birth, you are living with the mother in a permanent life-partnership; and You contribute or have attempted in good faith to contribute to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period; You contribute or ...Read More
The limited-time Free 15 (fifteen) minute legal advice consultation on child custody (care and contact) matters during the National Lockdown ENDED The free Free 15 (fifteen) minute legal advice consultation on child custody (care and contact) matters during the National Lockdown which was offered on 9 June 2020 ended on 24 August 2020. We hope all those who made use of the free service benefited from it. To make a legal advice consultation where a fee is applicable, kindly complete the form below ...Read More