Parents have an inherent right and duty to form part of their child’s lives. However, it often happens that parents of a child cannot see eye to eye as to what is in their child’s best interest. More often than not, when parents are divorced, separated or not living together, issues arise regarding the children they share. And then there is the case where parents want full custody over their children. These issues may range from the amount of contact the other parent has, the school the child may attend, or what extra-mural activities the child should pursue.
When it comes to children, strong commitment and love are not negotiable. Unfortunately, not all parents honour this duty, specifically their legal duty to maintain the well-being of their children. Considering this, the child maintenance system ensures that all parents honour their duty to maintain/support their children.
When co-holders experience difficulties in exercising their responsibilities and rights, they must agree on a parenting plan to regulate the exercise of their rights and responsibilities as a prerequisite before approaching the court. They must first seek the assistance of the family advocate, social worker or psychologist; alternatively, they must go for a mediation facilitated by a social worker or other suitably qualified person.
Parental responsibility is the responsibility to care for the child, to maintain contact with the child, to act as guardian of the child, and to contribute to the maintenance of the child. The Children’s Act further sets out that a person may have full or specific parental responsibilities and rights. Full parental responsibilities and rights means that a person may be entitled to all the rights set out in the Act. Specific parental responsibilities and rights means that a person may only have a specific right in terms of the Act; for example, the right to act only as guardian of the child.