26 July 2022

The Role of the Family Advocate

Submitted by SchoemanLaw Inc

By Raeesa Ebrahim Atkinson 

Introduction 

According to Section 20 and Section 21 of the Children's Act 38 of 2005, as amended (hereafter "the Act"), both parents have equal rights and responsibilities regarding a minor child. In saying that, however, when the relationship between the parents becomes acrimonious, disputes regarding these rights and responsibilities can be resolved by the conclusion of a parenting plan or an agreement regarding parental responsibilities. These agreements must be submitted to the office of the family advocate for approval. 

What Is A Family Advocate? 

A family advocate is an officer of the court, appointed in terms of Section 2 of the Mediation In Certain Divorce Matters Act 24 of 1987. Family advocates are neutral parties acting on behalf of and in the best interests of minor children during divorce proceedings. They uphold the best interests of the minor children by considering the provisions made and/or proposed by the parents party to the divorce, with particular emphasis on care, contact and access. 

Powers And Duties Of A Family Advocate 

The "best interests of a child standard" is established or rather provided for under Section 7 of the Act, with Section 8 of the Act indicating how this standard is to be applied in addition to or in extension of the rights contained in the Bill of rights. 

Family advocates do not charge for their services and may, conduct an enquiry or investigation into the care, contact and access of the minor child. They may provide recommendations to the parents and court and may also provide mediation to the parents in instances where the parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding their responsibilities towards the minor child. 

In addition to making recommendations, family advocates may endorse and register agreements regarding parental responsibilities and the care of minor children if they are satisfied that the agreement is in the best interests of the minor child. The Act, furthermore, empowers the family advocate to bring an application for the termination of parental rights. 

Conclusion 

In addition to providing mediation to the parents, the family advocate can provide key insights and recommendations on what may be the best fit for the child considering the circumstances. Often, what appears to be complicated factual disputes may be significantly simplified upon submission to the family advocate. 

Contact an attorney at SchoemanLaw for your legal needs by visiting our website at www.schoemanlaw.co.za.

Raeesa Ebrahim Atkinson 

Specialist Attorney Civil Dispute Resolution 

SchoemanLaw Inc – www.schoemanlaw.co.za 

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