Ever wondered what rights and responsibilities you have as a parent?

  • The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 provides that a parent has the following rights and responsibilities towards his/her child:
    • to care for a child;
    • to keep contact with a child;
    • to act as guardian of a child; and
    • to contribute to the maintenance of a child.
  • Both parents of a child have equal rights and responsibilities, but when they are not living together, specific rights and responsibilities may be given to one parent, either by court order or agreement between the parents.

Case study

Tarzan and Jane were married to each other and stayed in the jungle with their son, George. Tarzan went ape and developed a drinking problem which led to them getting a divorce. Jane moved back to the city and George is staying with her.

  • Care:
    • Care, also known as custody, involves the provision of a suitable place to live that encourages the child’s health and development.
    • The parent with whom a child is permanently residing is called the primary caregiverand has the right to care for that child and supervise his/her daily life.
    • Jane will be called the primary caregiver as George is permanently residing with her.
  • Contact:
    • The parent with whom the child is not residing has the right to keep contact with the child. In other words, maintain a personal relationship with the child.
    • This relationship can be maintained by allowing the parent to see, spend time with (visit or be visited) or communicate (through post, by telephone or any form of electronic communication).
    • The primary caregiver has a responsibility to allow this parent to keep contact with the child and to inform him/her of any change in the child’s residential address. Failure to comply with this will be a criminal offence.
    • Tarzan has the right to keep contact with George, in other words, maintain a personal relationship with him. Jane may not prevent Tarzan from contacting George.

Case Study

Tarzan does not have an education and Jane could not adapt to the lifestyle of the busy city and was declared mentally ill. As a result, Tarzan and Jane are not capable of making important decisions relating to George. Jane’s father, Professor Porter, was appointed as George’s legal guardian.

  • Guardianship:
    • A person who is a guardian of a child has the responsibility to make major decisions relating to that child, such as to assist the child with contractual matters and to give or refuse consent regarding the child’s:
      • marriage;
      • adoption;
      • departure or removal from the Republic of South Africa; and
      • application for a passport.
    • If more than one person has guardianship over a child, all of the guardians’ consent and/or assistance are required.
    • Before George can go on a school trip to India, Professor Porter will have to give consent for his departure from the Republic of South Africa.
  • Maintenance:
    • Both parents have the responsibility to contribute to the maintenance of the child.
    • A child’s reasonable needs to have a proper upbringing must be considered and includes the provision of food, clothing, accommodation, medical care and education.
    • The responsibility to maintain a child does not end when a child reaches a certain age. The responsibility will continue until s/he becomes self-supporting (being able to take care of him/herself).
    • Tarzan and Jane have the responsibility to contribute to the maintenance of George.

A parent or any other person who has an interest in the wellbeing of a child can apply to the Children’s Court, High Court or the Divorce Court during divorce proceedings for an order granting him/her with rights and responsibilities.