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Application to terminate parental rights


A decision in the Children’s Court of C v C dealt with an application by a former spouse to have their ex’s parental responsibilities and rights terminated. It is an unreported case under case number 14/1/4-54/10, 10-2-2012.

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As in many situations a child was born out of wedlock and the parties separated. They had been in a relationship for two years prior to the birth of the child. The applicant in this case was the lady and the respondent the man. After the birth of the child the respondent only visited the child on an ad hoc basis. The applicant wanted a parenting plan to be put in place and approached the family advocate.

The relationship between the parties had come to an end after the applicant had discovered that the respondent was engaged to someone else. On the facts of the case, the respondent was not happy that the applicant had fallen pregnant and had requested an abortion.

Section 28 of The Children’s Act 38 of 2005 deals with the termination of parental rights and responsibilities of either spouse through an application to the High Court, divorce court or children’s court. Certain parties can launch an application by way of a notice of motion and affidavit to suspend or terminate parental rights and responsibilities. In terms of the Act the court must take into account the best interests of the child and other factors such as the relationship between the child and the person whose parental responsibilities and rights are being challenged.

In the present case it was argued that the respondent did not financially support the child in any way, that he did not spend any time with the child and visited whenever it pleased him and that the role as a father figure was absent. The applicant further argued that the respondent’s actions were tantamount to abandonment of the child, that there was no routine in the child’s life and that the respondent was a violent person.

The court found in the end that a new family advocate’s report had to be devised giving the respondent more visitation tights. This was made an order of court but the respondent failed to honour the court order or to attend his further scheduled meeting with the family advocate. As a result of all of this, the court granted the application and the respondent’s parental responsibilities and rights were terminated.

Some people would argue against the correctness of this decision and that it is not constitutionally correct to terminate a parent’s rights to share in the child’s upbringing. The case of Fraser v Children’s Court, Pretoria North and Others 1997 (2) SA 261 (CC), which was in the Constitutional Court, furthermore held that fathers in non-Christian marriages cannot be discriminated against.

In my opinion, the best interests of the child must always be of paramount importance and need to be protected as best as possible. Often situations arise where the best interests of the child require that action is taken for the benefit of the child, which may well involve the termination or suspension of a parent’s rights and responsibilities to his/her child.

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