There are many types of fathers and many types of fatherhood . There are biological fathers, social fathers, gay fathers, straight fathers, young fathers, older fathers. We have self-identified fatherhood, ascribed fatherhood, long-distance fatherhood and proximal fatherhood, to name only a few. The texture is rich by age, race, class, geo-type, ethnicity or family type. Mothers, fathers and children experience a wide canvas of fatherhood portrayals. Such a richly textured canvas requires sensitivity that moves beyond simplistic interpretations.

When parents separate, their children enter into new living arrangements with each parent, which is determined by one or both parents, or by professionals such as lawyers, social workers, psychologists or custody evaluators, or by the Family Advocate. Most of these living arrangements are based on cultural traditions and beliefs regarding post separation parenting plans, visitation guidelines adopted within jurisdictions, unsubstantiated theory, and strongly held personal values and professional opinions, and have resulted since the 1960s in children spending most of their time with one residential parent and limited time with the non-resident or “visiting,” parent. 

In order to ensure the continuation of the parent-child relationship, it is important for those professionals involved in determining children’s living arrangements post separation to have a clear understanding of the impact of fathers’ involvement in their children’s lives, so that children’s relationships with their fathers can be maintained, and their best interests can be served. 


Fatherhood is about being present physically and emotionally for a child every day of the child’s life, building trust in the eyes of the child, the father will be a role model and provide emotional support, structure and direction for the child from the beginning and continuing forever throughout adulthood.

The image of fatherhood and the role that fathers play in their children’s lives has shifted over the past three decades. Today, fathers are more directly involved in child-rearing in a number of different ways, including nurturing and caregiving, engaging in leisure and play activities, providing moral guidance and discipline, in addition to providing the child’s mother with emotional and practical support.

Although fathers and mothers usually play different roles in their children’s lives, several studies have shown that infants form close bonds with their parents. This finding demonstrates that although both parents play different roles, nevertheless “different” does not imply more or less important.

Parenting is crucial to the lives of children of all ages. Children’s attachment to and involvement with both parents is essential to their healthy development throughout their lifespan.

Fathers experienced adjustment difficulties, as well as several other additional difficulties post-divorce. As a consequence, divorced men spent more time at work, perhaps as a result of loneliness, or because of additional financial pressures; 75% of divorced fathers felt that they were functioning less competently socially, especially with women, and 19% reported sexual difficulties; non-custodial fathers reported extremely painful and persistent emotional distress associated with having less contact with their children, and with having a diminished say in the decision-making regarding the frequency and duration of visitation. 


Section 21 relates to parental rights and responsibilities on unmarried fathers. Particularly if there is a dispute between the biological father and biological mother of the child as to whether he was living Section with the mother in a permanent life-partnership at the time of the birth or if paternity is contested or contributes in good faith to the child’s upbringing for a reasonable period and has contributed to the living expenses of the child for a reasonable period, then the matter must be referred to mediation to a family advocate, social worker, social service professional or other suitably qualified person.

A biological father must prove that he:

  • was living with the child’s mother in a serious, long term relationship at the time of the child’s birth,
  • wants to claim paternity of the child,
  • chooses to pay customary law damages, s contributes to the child’s upbringing, or
  • contributes or tries to contribute to the maintenance of the child

Customary law damage is a traditional practice. The unmarried father must pay the unmarried mother’s parents compensation for having sex with their daughter outside of a marriage and making her pregnant.

When an unmarried father of a child wants to claim paternity it means he wants everyone to know that he is the child’s father even if he and the child’s mother do not have a relationship.

Paternity means that this man fathered the child with the child’s mother. Paternity can be proved using a blood.


Section 18 determines that a person may have either full or specific parental responsibilities and rights in in respect of a child, which includes the responsibility and the right (a) to care for the child; (b) to maintain contact with the child; (c) to act as guardian of the child; and (4 to contribute to the maintenance of the child.  Married on unmarried fathers (subject to compliance with Section 21) have equal rights to the mothers and subsequently equal responsibilities.

The four rights and responsibilities are:

  • Contact
  • Care
  • Maintenance
  • Guardianship

Fathers can approach the courts to obtain their rights and responsibilities or it can be agreed upon with the mother through a parenting plan.

Social service professionals can obtain further information and training on the rights of fathers at or by mailing us at

For assistance with divorce cases and family mediation, please contact Melanie v Aswegen inc at 082 783 1316 or visit their website at Home ( to book an appointment.

Written by: Melanie v Aswegen (B.Iuris, LLB)

Edited by: Jessica Redelinghuys (Mcom I/O Psyc)

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