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News & Resources

The right to be a Dad!
01 August 2019  | Crystelle Steyn

We are currently living in an era where we see more frequently that young and in love couples choose not to get married and only date and start a family.

But what happens if the couple split and the mother refuses to give the father access because they were not married? Do this unmarried father have any rights towards the minor child?

In terms of Section 20 of the Children’s Act of 2005, fathers have automatic full parental responsibilities and rights towards their children if they were married to the biological mother or they married the mother at the time of conception, after the birth of the child or anytime in between conception and the birth of the child.

It is clear that unmarried fathers do not enjoy automatic full parental responsibilities and rights as in terms of Section 20, but a father can apply to acquire these same rights if they comply with the requirements in terms of Section 21 of the Children’s Act.

In basic terms, Section 21 will give unmarried biogolocial fathers of a child, parental responsibilities and rights, if the father lived with the mother when the child was born. Alternatively, if they did not live together and the father accepts to be identified as the biological father or proved his paternity in court or he has contributed or tried to contribute to the child’s upbringing or maintenance.

Should an unmarried biological father decide to apply for these rights in terms of Section 21, he should know that the mother would still remain the primary caregiver of the minor child and regardless if the father wants to apply for this rights or not, the mother still has a right to claim maintenance from the biological father.

This section brought relief for so many unmarried fathers who wants to be a part of their child’s life as these rights include the responsibility to care for the child, to maintain contact with the child, to act as guardian of the child, and to contribute to the maintenance of the child.. This also means that the father will have a say in all the major decisions regarding the child and in other words will have a right to be a dad.

Reference list: Children’s Act 38 of 2005.

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