Journal Article

Realizing South African Children'S Basic Socio-Economic Claims Against Parents And The State: What Courts Can Achieve

Elsje Bonthuys

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 22, issue 3, pages 333-355
Published in print December 2008 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online December 2008 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/ebn012
Realizing South African Children'S Basic Socio-Economic Claims Against Parents And The State: What Courts Can Achieve

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There are two systems for realizing South African children's basic socio-economic rights: the ‘private’ system for claiming maintenance from parents and the ‘public’ system of child welfare. This article compares the courts’ responses to problems in realizing children's rights in these two systems, focusing particularly on the emerging jurisprudence dealing with recalcitrant social welfare departments. Although courts have been willing to adopt innovative and severe measures against private maintenance defaulters, a similar willingness to issue drastic orders against malfunctioning government departments only arose once it became clear that they were deliberately ignoring court orders. Failures in both systems have prompted the courts to craft original, socially responsible legal rules and to limit the technical defences that prevent the realization of constitutional rights. In the welfare cases, courts have assumed sweeping remedial powers against government officials, relying on the claimants’ fundamental constitutional rights. The article concludes by setting out the limits of court intervention in ensuring effective realization of children's rights, especially for the most disadvantaged children.

Journal Article.  10268 words. 

Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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