Our expert says:
Family law expert
In terms of the Children’s Act unmarried fathers can acquire parental rights and responsibilities automatically (without needing to go to court) but only in the event that the father complies with provisions set out in section 21. In your case you contribute to maintenance, so you comply with the provisions. The section came into operation on 1 July 2007. Previously, it was not possible for unmarried fathers to acquire automatic rights in respect of a child in terms of the Natural Fathers of Children born out of Wedlock Act.
If the mother disputes that the requirements have been satisfied then the matter must be referred to one of the following service providers for mediation, i.e, the family advocate, social worker, social service professional or other suitably qualified person. You cannot approach the court before such mediation has taken place. When mediation fails or is not possible then one of the parties can approach the High Court for an appropriate order.
Where no dispute exists that you comply with the section 21 then you and the mother will be co-holders of parental rights and responsibilities. In such a case you will be able to exercise your parental rights and responsibilities if you and the mother draw up a parenting plan in terms of section 33 setting out how both would exercise the responsibilities and rights in respect of the minor. However, section 33 is also not yet in operation.
Once the Act is fully operational, section 33 will be of assistance. Section 33 allows for persons who both have parental responsibilities and rights (eg mother and unmarried father who qualifies in terms of section 21) to enter in to an agreement which sets out in detail what the arrangements will be for the child’s upbringing.
At the moment, however, section 33 has not yet come into operation. In order to protect your child’s rights, it is important that you and the mother reach agreement on how your responsibilities and rights should be exercised. If the child is of sufficient age and maturity, he may also be involved in making such agreements.
If no agreement can be reached, and for the time being pending the full working of the Children's Act, the unmarried father will have to seek a court order. At the moment the only recourse you will have is to the High Court. Once the new Children’s Act is fully operational, you will have a number of choices, you will be able to bring applications for care or contact in the High Court or Children’s Court(applications for guardianship will remain the sole jurisdiction of the High Court).
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal
advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.