This is a child custody case involving a father (the applicant) seeking custody of his minor child because the child’s biological mother, the respondent, sought to take the child to Sri Lanka without the applicant’s permission. The applicant and respondent were never legally married and the respondent had custody of the child. The Court found that Section 31 of the Constitution abolishes the status of illegitimacy of children but that Section 31 is silent on the status of the father of a child born out of wedlock. The Court held that until Parliament enacts the necessary laws under Section 29(7) of the Constitution (which specifically provides for the enactment of laws by Parliament to ensure children’s rights) the legal effects flowing from the fact that the child was born out of wedlock apply and the Court cannot grant guardianship of the minor child to the applicant. Section 31 of the Constitution relates, in part to the rights of children born out of wedlock to inherit from their father. The Court was satisfied that the mother showed careful preparation in her decision to move to Sri Lanka for better career opportunities. The application failed.
Stapley v. Dobson