It’s his boy — and his name
● It has been his best Christmas present ever. “I cannot stop crying,” the man said this week. “This means everything to me.”
The Johannesburg-based dad was speaking after a court ruled that his fiveyear-old son would carry his name.
The action against the child’s mother has taken 18 months and set a legal precedent.
Family law experts said the ruling was a step forward in broadening the rights of unmarried fathers.
The judge also ordered that the child’s surname be double-barrelled on the birth certificate to properly reflect his identity.
The child’s mother is a Durban-based businesswoman. Neither parent can be named to protect the identity of the child.
“As a father, I have not been able to take anything for granted. I have had to fight to be recognised, feeling like I was always on the back foot,” the father said.
In her ruling, Durban high court judge Jacqui Henriques said the couple had an acrimonious relationship and “cannot agree on anything”.
She said she had to determine what was in the best interests of the child.
“A name is an important aspect of identity and personality,” she said.
“Legislation enacted in 2002 provides for a child to be assigned the surname of either the father, the mother or a double-barrelled surname. However, a clear distinction is drawn in circumstances where a child is born out of wedlock.”
The judge said it was undeniable that the father was devoted to his son and committed to playing a meaningful role in his life.
“In my view, the alteration of his name can only be in the best interests of the child … in addition to maintain a healthy relationship with his father and give recognition to both his birth rights, a double-barrelled surname recognising both parents and their commitment to him can hardly be said not to be in his best interests.”
Family law specialist Benita Ardenbaum described the judgment as a move in the right direction.