Unmarried Fathers - Rights And Responsibilities
Out of Africa – a baby taken overseas without the father’s consent
- The mother of a four month old child relocated with him to England without either informing, or seeking permission from, the father
- The parents had never been married to each other, nor did they cohabit or live together in a permanent life partnership
- The father applied to the English courts for an order that the child be returned to South Africa, and a local High Court had to determine whether or not the child’s removal was lawful
- On appeal, the SCA agreed with the High Court that the removal was unlawful in that it had breached the father’s rights as a guardian - you need permission from all of a child’s guardians, or from a court, to get a child’s passport or to take it out of the country.
The three requirements to become a guardian
In summary, our Children’s Act automatically recognises an unmarried father as a guardian if he –
- Consents to be identified as the child’s father,
- Contributes, or attempts in good faith to contribute, to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period, and
- Contributes, or attempts in good faith to contribute, towards expenses in connection with the maintenance of the child for a reasonable period.
On these facts, the father was indeed a co-guardian with full parental rights and responsibilities, and accordingly the child’s removal from South Africa had been unlawful.