Passport Application for a minor child: Mother cannot find the father to provide the necessary consent at the Department of Home Affairs. The Application is therefore refused.
Passport Application for a minor child: It is not easy being a single parent, and at the same time, the primary caregiver of the child. This is even so where the other parent pays child support and regularly sees the child. This article deals with the situation where the father of the child is missing. He, therefore, does not pay any child support, nor has a relationship with the child. This causes a problem when it comes to issues of guardianship rights. For example, when the mother wants to enrol the child in a school or provide medical consent. The question would always arise – “where is the father?”, or “did the father give his consent?” When it comes to official matters, for example, the application for a passport, then things become more complicated. This is where the issue of parental consent for the application for a passport is looked at. Now let us first deal with the law.
In short, if a father was married to the mother, he would automatically have full parental responsibilities and rights to the child born from them. This includes the rights of care, contact and guardianship. If he was not married to the mother of the child, he can acquire parental responsibilities and rights. In short, in order for the unmarried father to acquire parental responsibilities and rights, he has to form part of the child’s life. He may also attempt to do so and the mother hinders it from happening. In the latter situation, he would still acquire parental responsibilities and rights.
The Unmarried Father’s Rights
The unmarried father can acquire parental responsibilities and rights to his child in a number of ways. They include paying child support, visiting the child and so on. Therefore, not all fathers would have parental responsibilities and rights over their children. Some fathers just impregnated the mothers and went missing. Such a father cannot rock up, 12 years later and demand to take the child with him to the movies. I think you understand the point we are trying to make.
What is the legal effect of having parental responsibilities and rights over a child?
Should a father have parental responsibilities and rights over a child – he has certain defined rights. Those rights could either be absolute, or specific. An absolute right would be one of guardianship. An example would be an application for a passport or the removal of a child from the Republic. In the latter cases, the father’s consent is an absolute requirement which can only be taken away by a court of law.
Then there are relative parental responsibilities and rights over a child. These rights depend on the circumstances of the case. An example would be that of visitation. A father who has parental responsibilities and rights of contact over a child cannot demand to see the child at any time. He may not even be able to demand to see the child half the time. His contact rights would be limited to what is in the child’s bests interests. And that would change from time to time. For example, should the father live 100km away from his children, contact could be every second weekend. But, should he live down the road, it could be every second day.
The Legal Problem for unmarried parents and their rights
The consent required in relation to the exercise of parental responsibilities and rights over certain children have challenges. How would anyone know whether or not an unmarried father has parental responsibilities and rights? For example, lets say the father was never involved in the child’s life – what proof does she have to show the authorities that the father does not have any parental responsibilities and rights? Would the Department of Home Affairs just accept the allegation made by the mother? I do not think so. And this could cause a problem in two ways.
Let’s say the father has parental responsibilities and rights over a child. The mother however now wishes to relocate overseas. She tells the authorities at the Department of Home Affairs that she does not know where the father is, and he was never involved in the child’s life. If the Department of Home Affairs accepts her lie, the mother would be able to leave South Africa with the child, and without the father knowing. Let alone obtain his consent.
On the other hand, let’s say that the father was really not involved in the child’s life since birth. He went missing after he found out the mother was pregnant. He never paid for any of the birthing costs, nor any of the child’s expenses since birth. Should the mother approach the Department of Home Affairs, would they allow her to obtain a passport without the father’s consent? We could be wrong, but we doubt they will.
What can a mother do if she does not have the consent from the father
As the law stands and with the current position of the Department of Home Affairs, the following needs to be done if the father refuses to give his consent, or cannot be found.
Application to the High Court
We advise that you consult with a legal advisor to advise you on the merits of your case. If there are merits, an application to the relevant court would be made. The Court would decide on the matter after hearing from both the parents. If it is decided that it would be best for the child to obtain a passport or relocate, the court would grant the appropriate order.
These are the documents that would form part of the Court file:
Notice of Motion
This document outlines the relief you are asking the court for. This would be the case where the details of the father is known. Two of the clauses could be as follows:
- The Respondent’s consent is not required for the departure of the minor child, Little One, with identity number 0813040502086 (hereafter referred to as “the minor child”), from the Republic of South Africa, and to relocate to France, as provided for in section 18(5) of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005;
- The Respondent’s consent is not required for the return of the minor child to the Republic of South Africa for visits;
In this document, you outline the facts of the matter. You would deal with why you want consent.
If the father opposes the Application, he would file this affidavit. In this document he would outline reasons why the court should not give consent.
You would then get an opportunity to reply to the father’s allegations made.
Advice to parents who wants to relocate or temporary leave South Africa with the minor child
If you need to relocate, with a child, and the other parent refuses to give consent, speak to a legal advisor, or to us. They would advise you on your case, and if need be, assist or direct you to the proper people for an Application to court for an order that the requirement of consent is dispensed with. Should you be successful in such an application, the Order would be shown to the Department of Home Affairs when applying for a passport and when leaving the Country. The Officials would comply with the Order. The Order of Court can also be shown to the officials overseas should they want to know where the consent of the father is.
In the same manner, should you want to leave South Africa to go overseas on holiday with the minor, approach us for advice should the other parent refuse to give consent. Your visit overseas could be to visit a family member, or just for a break. There should be no reason why you cannot take the minor child with you on holiday.
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