The Children’s act of South Africa defines the different components of parental responsibilities and rights that an individual can have in respect of a minor child. These can be divided into four distinct elements: care, contact, guardianship and maintenance. Biological parents have automatic parental responsibilities and rights in respect of their child, and any person with a vested interest in the well-being of a minor child may apply to the court for an order that grants these responsibilities and rights. 


The concept of care in the Children’s Act makes it clear that a child should have a suitable place to live that encourages good health and development. This refers to the physical structure that the child resides in but also includes providing for and facilitating the child’s education and a safe living environment. 

It is essentially the parent’s responsibility to guide the child through life and oversee their daily activities to ensure their safety. The parent with which the child is permanently residing is referred to as the primary caregiver. 


If the parents of a child are separated the parent with whom the child does not reside has the responsibility and right to have regular contact with the child. This could be through personal contact or by electronic communication such as phone calls and text messages. This allows parents to build and maintain a personal relationship with the child, even when they are not living together.
The primary caregiver is therefore not allowed to interfere with this contact or withhold the child from the other parent, they in turn have a responsibility to facilitate this contact.


A legal guardian is tasked with protecting a minor child's interests and is also responsible for assisting the child when they need to make major decisions and when dealing with legal matters. This means that the guardian's consent is required in a number of instances, for example, when the child wishes to enter into contracts, get married or even if they wish to apply for a passport. 
It is possible that more than one person can be granted guardianship over a child, in which case consent would be required from all of these guardians. 


The maintenance responsibilities of parents are not clearly defined within the Children’s Act. The common-law interpretation of maintenance suggests that this refers to providing for the basic needs of the child. 
This component of parental responsibilities and rights seeks to ensure that parents provide the child with living essentials such as food, clothing, appropriate housing facilities and competent medical care. Both parents are responsible for making contributions to the maintenance of their child, even if they are not residing together.

Our children are the future, and the Children’s Act emphasises the importance of always acting in the best interest of the child. At Cawood Attorneys, we understand the sensitive nature of cases that involve minor children, and we treat these with a great deal of respect. Contact us today if you are in need of legal assistance regarding any of these different components of parental responsibilities and rights.

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