Unwed Father

Are you a father of a child born out of wedlock?

What does a "child born out of wedlock" mean?

A child born out of wedlock is a child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of the child's conception or at any time after the birth of the child.

Do I have to pay maintenance to support my child?

Yes, you have a duty to maintain your child and the child has a right of maintenance from you.

Can I see my child any time I wish?

An unmarried father has the right of contact to his child if the following conditions are met:

  • If at the time of the child's birth he is living with the mother in a permanent life-partnership; or
  • If he, regardless of whether he has lived or is living with the mother:- 
    • Consents to be identified or successfully applies to the Court to be identified as the child's father or pays damages in terms of customary law.
    • Contributes or has attempted in good faith to contribute to the child's upbringing for a reasonable period.
    • Contributes or has attempted in good faith to contribute towards expenses in connection with the maintenance of the child for a reasonable period.

Do I have a right to decide on issues regarding my child?

No, the mother has full parental power over the child and decides on all the child's day-to-day activities as well as all the important decisions in the child's life.

How do I apply for rights to my child?

  • We suggest that you seek the help of an attorney who will make an application to the High Court.
  • The High Court will make an order once all aspects have been considered. The mother of the child has the right to oppose the application.

What will the Court take into account in determining the best interests of the child?

The Court will take the following into consideration:

  • The relationship between you and the mother.
  • Whether either of you has a history of violence against or abusing each other or your child.
  • The relationship between you and the child.
  • The relationship between the mother and the child.
  • The effect that separating the child from you or from the mother or any other person is likely to have on the child.
  • The degree of commitment that you have shown towards the child.
  • Whether you have paid any maintenance towards the child.
  • Your reasons for applying for the order.
  • The attitude of the child in the granting of the application.
  • Any other factor that the Court considers relevant.

How can I ensure that I have a say in my child's life?

After certain rights have been awarded to you by the Court:

  • The mother of your child will not be able to have the child adopted without your consent.
  • The consent of both parents will be required for obtaining a passport or for the marriage of the child while he/she is still a minor.
  • If you are granted co-guardianship the mother may not take the child out of the country without your consent.
  • In case of change of address the mother must notify you of that change immediately. Should the mother fail to notify you of the change of address, she will be in contempt of Court.
  • If the mother dies you will automatically become the sole guardian and custodian of the child, unless the Court orders otherwise.


  • WEDLOCK: Means marriage.
  • CONTACT: Parents' rights to see their children.
  • CARE: The duty of taking care of someone.
  • CONTEMPT: Deliberate disrespect for the authority of a Court of law.

How can Legal Eagle help you? 

  • A Legal Counsellor will advise you on which action to take. This is not covered under the Legal Eagle policy.