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Custody granted to unmarried father

In a recent court case in the High Court the court yet again decided that unmarried fathers have full rights, just like mothers, to be awarded full and permanent care over the minor child born out of wedlock. The court also decided in this case that grandparents of such children do not get preference over the natural mother or father of such a child.

In this case the parties had not been married, but were planning to marry, and the mother of the child had passed away shortly after the birth of the minor child. The daughter was now five years old and a lengthy period of litigation had passed before the matter was eventually decided before five judges of the Appeal Court.

In the first decision in the Northern Cape High Court the child was placed in the care of her deceased mother's parents. The father of the child, from Paarl, also got a costs order against him.

However, on appeal the High Court set aside this order. This court yet again emphasised the aims and intentions of the new Children's Act of 2005, which clearly gives rights to both the father and mother of a child, and states that a court can't be biased on the basis of gender when deciding to which parent care of the minor child should be awarded to.

The Appeal Court once again emphasised the best interest of the minor child, and that the previous court had not taken into account the best interest of the child. The best interest of the child in this case were that she resides with her father, who the court found to be a good father.

The court referred to Section 18 of the Children's Act which allows full parental rights and responsibilities to be awarded to fathers. In this case the court found that the previous court had based its decision on incorrect legal principles. The grandparents were only awarded reasonable contact to their grand-daughter, in co-operation with the biological father and his new wife.

In my opinion this was a good decision, based on the facts. Each case must be decided individually and here the father was more than equipped to take care of his daughter. The judges on appeal were C.Lewis, R.Bosielo, R.Pillay, E.Bertelsmann and K.Pillay.

In other cases the grandparents are often better equipped to take care of the minor but not in this one. The father was more than stable and equipped. A very good decision.

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