Tag Archives: Children’s Act

Access to his children – A father’s right

Section 28(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa guarantees that :

“Every child has the right to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment”.

The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 (herein referred to as the Children’s Act) has been promulgated to improve and define the rights of children in line with our country’s Constitution. According to Section 18(1) of the Children’s Act, ”A person may have either full or specific parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child.

In legal terms, “full parental responsibilities and rights” refers to the responsibility and right 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.

A father has the same rights and responsibilities as the biological mother of a child, provided that he is married or was married to the child’s mother, at the time of the child’s conception, or at the time of the child’s birth or anytime between the child’s conception and birth.

In instances where the father does not meet one of abovementioned requirements, Section 21 of the Children’s Act provides that: “The biological father of a child can also acquire full parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child –

  • if at the time of the child’s birth he is living with the mother in a permanent life-partnership;
  • if he, regardless of whether he has lived or is living with the mother –
    • consents to be identified or successfully applies in terms of Section 26 to be identified as the child’s father or pays damages in terms of customary law.
    • contributes or has attempted in good faith to contribute to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period; and
    • contributes or has attempted in good faith to contribute towards expenses in connection with the maintenance of the child for a reasonable period.

This basically means that the relationship status of the biological parents is of no relevance in instances where the parents have automatically acquired full parental rights and responsibilities in terms of the Children’s Act, as both parents are responsible for that child, unless a court orders otherwise.

In cases where a dispute arises between the biological parents, regarding the parental rights and responsibilities, the matter is referred for mediation, of which in most cases, is to a family advocate. The Family Advocate will evaluate the parties’ background and circumstances in light of the best interests of the child and will make a recommendation to the Court. The outcome of such mediation proceedings is not final and parties may still approach a court to enforce their rights or clarify their position.

It is evident that the new Children’s Act does indeed provide some protection and also secures the rights of fathers and children in a more adequate way as compared to the old dispensation. It is also important that both parents familiarise themselves with the basics, pertaining to rights and obligations, which could one day assist them, as the Children’s Act defines parental responsibilities and rights.

If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact our family law department.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein.  Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

When must you consult the Family Advocate?

You may consult the Family Advocate if you have a dispute relating to either the best interests of a child and/or parental responsibilities and rights. Other circumstances under which the family advocate may be consulted include:

1. When parties require assistance in drafting parental responsibilities and rights agreements and to register such with the Family Advocate or to amend, and/or terminate the said agreements registered with him or her.

  1. When parties require assistance in drafting parenting plans and to amend or terminate such parenting plans registered with him or her.
  1. An application to define contact.
  1. A custody, access or guardianship dispute arising from the dissolution of a customary or religious marriage.
  1. Domestic Violence and Maintenance cases referred to the Family Advocate in terms of the Judicial Matters Second Amendment Act (Act 55 of 2003).
  1. Fathers of children born out of wedlock may request mediation of their parental rights and responsibilities (in terms of the Children’s Act).
  1. Parental child abduction to and from South Africa.

If there is a dispute regarding the contact, guardianship or care (parental responsibilities and rights) of a minor child, the Office of the Family Advocate would be requested to investigate the welfare and best interest of the minor child involved. Often, they provide a report which is handed to the relevant Court for consideration. The Office of the Family Advocate is not employed by the parties involved. They work for the State ensuring that they are objective in their investigation and only have the child’s best interests at heart.

Steps involved

  1. Contact your nearest Family Advocate to request an enquiry or, mediation of your legal dispute.
  1. Upon receipt of the request, the Family Advocate institutes an inquiry during which he or she interviews you and the parties involved to determine your personal circumstances and the background of the matter. Where mediation is requested the Family Advocate will be the mediator
  1. The Family Counsellor then interviews the children separately, so as to enable such children to exercise their statutory right to be heard and to enable the Family Advocate to convey their views to the Court.
  1. The Family Advocate will communicate whatever decision taken, which significantly affects the welfare of the child, to such child.
  1. Upon completion of the enquiry or mediation process the Family Advocate will file a report for the Court and furnish copies to the parties or their lawyers.

In a typical custody dispute, a Family Advocate and social worker would be appointed to a case and investigate it. The social worker and the Family Advocate would consult with the parents (or parties involved in the dispute), visit their homes if necessary and obtain information from relevant parties etc. The Family Advocate and social worker would also speak to the child and may want to observe the child’s interaction with the parents. If there are other professionals, for example, a social worker or a psychologist who assessed the situation and provided a report, the Office of the Family Advocate would consider those documents as well and even consult with those experts before handing in their report.

References:

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

Maintenance – Not only for children

A1_BWhen the word “maintenance” is mentioned, many people think of women claiming maintenance for minor children, or alternatively, women claiming maintenance from their ex-husbands. However, in this article we will deal with parents claiming maintenance from their adult children.

Mike Larry received a summons from the Maintenance Court to appear three weeks later for a maintenance matter, however Mike had no children or wife and was quite confused, thinking that perhaps the Court had made a mistake. Mike attended the Maintenance Court in order to enquire whether there had been a mishap in the documentation. However, what Mike found out made his heart sink, and soon his bank account, too.

Mike’s father, Jermaine, had made an application at the Maintenance Court for maintenance from Mike as he had no job and therefore no income. Mike asked his lawyer whether this was even possible and the answer was affirmative.

According to the Maintenance Act 99 of 1998, parents and children have a reciprocal duty of support. A child has a duty to support his/her parents and grandparents, but always subject to the rule that support must be claimed from one’s nearest relatives first. The basis of a child’s duty to support their parents is the sense of dutifulness or filial piety (relating to or due from a son or daughter). In certain circumstances even minor children may have to support their parents. As always, the criteria which must be present is a need on the part of the person to be maintained, and the ability to support on the part of the person from whom support is claimed. A parent who claims support from a child must prove his or her need and the child’s ability to support the parent. As mentioned above, a more stringent criterion of need is applied to parents than to children; indigence on the part of the parent is stated to be a requirement.

Our authorities are not entirely clear on this point. In Oosthuizen v Stanley the court spoke of “the quality and condition of the persons to be supported”. In the same case it was pointed out that where a parent must be supported it is not only the parent’s own needs but also those of the parent’s dependents which must be considered. In Van Vuuren v Sam Rabie, the Judge referred to the same criterion but stressed that the support of parents must be confined to the basic needs which are food, clothing, shelter, medicine and care in times of illness. Relying on the case of Surdus v Surdus, the Judge said that, in assessing the quality and condition of life of the person to be supported, it is primarily his present, not his past situation which is considered, but that in assessing these the Judge should exercise his discretion. For instance, a previously wealthy parent who has fallen on hard times should not be compelled to eat peasants’ food. It has been argued that the criterion of need should not be so narrowly interpreted here as to destroy the whole concept of a reciprocal obligation.

However, the following can also be considered when a parent makes an application for maintenance from his/her child:

1. Siblings;

2. Extra income; and

3. Quality of living.

In terms of the common law an extramarital child has a duty to support his/her mother, but whether or not he/she must support his/her father has yet to be decided. It can, however, be argued that an extramarital child would be liable to maintain his/her father in terms of Section 16 of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005.

In conclusion, if you feel you are being unfairly targeted for a maintenance claim, be sure to consult with your attorneys so they can inform you of your rights and responsibilities.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)