When a child is born in South Africa, both parents are inherently responsible for the wellbeing of that child. In cases where the parents of a minor child are no longer in a committed relationship, there are certain parental responsibilities and rights that apply after separation. Ideally, both parties will be able to come to an agreement that details the scope of each individuals responsibilities and rights as it relates to the minor child. If parents are not able to come to an agreement the matter could be referred to court where a ruling will be made, keeping the best interests of the child in mind throughout the process.


What Are Parental Responsibilities and Rights?


The parental responsibilities and rights of individuals with minor children are detailed in the Children’s Act. Firstly, parents are required to provide minor children with basic care. This includes among others an appropriate living space, financial support and ensuring that the child is well-fed and grows up in a safe environment. This definition of care makes it clear that the health and well-being of a child should always be each parent’s top priority, irrespective of whether they are in a committed relationship or not. Secondly, both parents have the right to have contact with their minor child. This is important to help parents cultivate and maintain a good relationship with their children after separation. Contact is characterised by regular visits with the child and engaging in frequent communication with them. Lastly, the act grants parents the right to act as legal guardians for their children. This enables a parent to represent the minor in legal matters and affords them the ability to act on behalf of the minor when entering into any legally binding contract. Married parents have joint guardianship over their children. This remains unchanged after separation or divorce has taken place.


The Children’s Act


The Children’s Act was instituted primarily to help protect minor children in South Africa from neglect and victimisation. The act focuses on uniting families and ensuring that minors are cared for within their households, always putting the needs of the child first. The act also emphasises the importance of involving the minor in decisions and allowing them to be heard. This means that a minor should be a part of any discussion relating to their well-being, depending on their age and level of understanding. This is especially true when it comes to parents who have separated, as the absence of one parent could be detrimental to the child’s upbringing. Regardless of how the parents feel about one another, the best interest of the minor child should determine the parental responsibilities and rights of each individual after separation.


The Children’s Act seeks to empower and protect minors in South Africa and the parental responsibilities and rights detailed within the act provide clear guidelines as to what is expected from the family members of a minor child throughout their childhood. Unfortunately, family law is a very complicated field and even with all of the information provided in the Act you might still be left with unanswered questions. At Cawood Attorneys, we are dedicated to providing accurate legal advice and strive towards successful results for all of our clients. Contact us today if you are going through a separation and in need of legal assistance or visit our website for more information on the variety of services we offer.


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