How do I terminate parental responsibilities and rights in South Africa?

What are my parental responsibilities and rights?

A parent may either have full or specific parental responsibilities and rights in respect of a child. The responsibilities and rights include the responsibility and right to care for the child, maintain contact with the child, act as the child’s guardian and contribute towards maintenance of the child.

Over time, the circumstances surrounding a child can change and may result in many of the child’s interests being neglected or improperly catered for. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding a child have materially changed to such an extent that a person’s entitlement or ability to properly give effect to their parental responsibilities and rights, in a manner that is in the best interests of the child, is questionable. To avoid any potential harm from befalling a child, an application in terms of Section 28 should be launched.

How do I terminate parental responsibilities and rights in South Africa?

Section 28 of the Children’s Act, Act 35 of 2005 deals with the termination, extension, suspension or restriction of parental responsibilities and rights through an application to the high court, divorce court or children’s court.

What type of orders can be made in respect of my parental rights over my child?

  • suspending a person’s rights for a period;
  • terminating any or all of a persons’ parental responsibilities and rights;
  • extending any or all of a persons’ parental responsibilities and rights;
  • limiting any or all of a person’s parental responsibilities and rights;
  • structuring and circumscribing the exercise by a person of any or all of the parental responsibilities and rights that person has in respect of a child.

Who can apply to have a person’s parental rights terminated?

In terms of the aforesaid Act the following people can launch such an application by way of a notice of motion and affidavit, namely:-

  • co-holders of parental responsibilities and rights in respect of the child;
  • anyone with sufficient interest in the care, protection, well-being or development of the child;
  • the child, acting with the leave of the court;
  • anyone acting in the child’s best interests, and acting with the leave of the court; or
  • a family advocate or representative of an interested organ of state.

When will a court terminate a person’s parental rights?

When considering such an application, the court must take the following factors into account:-

  • the child’s best interests;
  • the relationship between the child and the person whose parental responsibilities and rights are being challenged;
  • the degree of commitment that the person has shown towards the child; and;
  • any other fact that should, in the court’s opinion, be taken into account.

An application in terms of Section 28 is a drastic measure and should not be brought frivolously or maliciously by any party.

What will happen if my parental rights are terminated?

The effect of an application for termination of parental responsibilities and rights will either wholly or partially deprive a person of their parental responsibilities and rights regarding a child meaning that person will no longer have any obligations to care for the child, nor have any right to exercise contact with the child.

Should you have any questions regarding the termination of parental responsibilities and rights, please do not hesitate to contact our child custody lawyers in Johannesburg to schedule an appointment to discuss the issue.