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Unmarried Fathers - What are our rights and obligations?

Some men assume that because they were not married to the mother of their child at the time of their child’s birth, they are at a disadvantaged position when it comes to the right to care for and have contact with him/her.

The Constitution of South Africa enshrines upon each child the right to basic nutrition, shelter, health care and social services as well as the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation. As it usually falls upon the parents of a child to fulfill these constitutional rights, it is imperative that unmarried fathers feel free to step up to the plate and play an equal role in ensuring their children receive the love and care they deserve.

The Children’s Act provides unmarried fathers with equal parental rights and responsibilities in respect of their children regardless of their relationship with the child’s mother. As is the case with most rights, they are dependent in upon certain conditions. These conditions are:

  1. The unmarried father had to be, at the time of the child’s birth living with the mother in a permanent partnership;

  2. Or regardless of where the unmarried father was living, had to have given his consent to be identified or successfully applied to be identified as the child’s father,

  3. And contributed or had attempted to contribute in good faith toward the child’s upbringing and maintenance.

In addition to the basic rights set out in the Constitution, the Courts have held that every child has the right to have access to and contact with both of his or her parents. Acrimony between a child’s parents should never prevent a child from forming a safe and secure bond with his or her father and mother.

An unmarried father who is faced with a dispute in respect of his parental rights and responsibilities is urged to rely on the content of the Children’s Act as aforesaid and to insist that his rights be recorded in a properly mediated parenting plan.

At Maybery Inc. we have the experience to guide you through a full range of family law disputes. We help our clients achieve justice and protect the best interests of children. Contact us to arrange a consultation with our family law Advocate.


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