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Unwed fathers

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA - April 2019

Father’s rights of children born out of wedlock

A child born out of wedlock is a child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of the child's conception or at any time after the birth of the child.

Many people in South Africa still have the perception that unmarried and divorced fathers have limited rights to their children and that the mother has the sole right to decide what is best for the child but this is no longer the case.

Constitution recognises that natural fathers have a right to play a role in their children’s lives since this in the best interest of the children.

The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 marked a milestone in how natural fathers’ rights are handled in South African law.

According to the Children’s Act, he biological father still has full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of his child unless a court orders otherwise.

When it comes to an unmarried biological father, he acquires full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child if he is living with the mother in a permanent life-partnership at the time of birth; consents to be identified as the child’s father, successfully applies to be identified as the child’s father, or pays damages in terms of customary law; has contributed or has attempted in good faith to contribute to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period; and has contributed or has tried in good faith to contribute towards maintenance expenses for the child for a reasonable period.

In conclusion it can be seen that the new Children’s Act does indeed protect and secure the rights of fathers, mothers and children in a way which has never been achieved before. It is important that the general public, and more specifically mothers and fathers become aware of the changes that have been made so that they may be fully aware of their rights and responsibilities in respect of their children.

Date: 8th August 2014
Legislation: Children’s Act, Act 38 of 2005

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