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Back in the day, fathers of children born out of wedlock were given a rough deal when it came to guardianship, custody and access to their children.

The tide began to turn in 1998, after a highly publicized court case, and through an act of parliament Courts were given the power to grant guardianship, custody and access to unmarried fathers.

Things have progressed further with unmarried fathers having full parental rights and responsibilities in terms of the Children’s Act.

Certain requirements do have to be met before an unmarried father has those parental rights and responsibilities. Those requirements are that:

  1. The father must have lived with the mother at the time of the child’s birth; or
  2. Regardless of whether the father lives or lived with the mother; he consents to:
  • Being identified as the father of the child; and
  • Contributes to the child’s upbringing; and
  • Contributes towards the expenses of the child

What does “parental rights and responsibilities” mean?

In a nutshell it means that you have the right to care for, maintain contact with, act as guardian and contribute to the maintenance of your child.

As guardian of your child you are expected to maintain your child’s property, if any, and assist or represent them when they enter into contracts. In addition, both you and the child’s mother both have to consent to the following:

  1. Child’s marriage i.e. only if under the age of 18 years;
  2. Their adoption i.e. if the mother marries and her husband wishes to adopt;
  3. Their removal or departure from South Africa i.e. mother wants to emigrate;
  4. Child’s application for a passport;
  5. Selling any property owned by your child.