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The Role, Functions and Benefits of the Family Advocate

A “Family Advocate” is often something parents come across when facing separation, married or unmarried, when they have a dispute over who the care, contact and access of the child or children, will belong to. However, very few parents understand the role, function and benefits of a Family Advocate in family related matters. This article will serve the purpose of providing clarity on the term “Family Advocate”, by dealing with the role, function and benefits of the Family Advocate.

What is a Family Advocate?
A Family Advocate is a neutral person belonging to the Office of the Family Advocate who provides mediation during a divorce.
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or separation in order to protect the rights of children whose care is in dispute. A Family Advocate is employed by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development and acts as a legal representative of the child or children.

What is the Role of the Family Advocate?
The Role of the Family Advocate is to take the best interests of the child or children into consideration and to promote these interests in order to make a decision regarding their care, contact, access and guardianship by the respective parents. The legislative mandate of Family Advocates is governed by section 28(2) of the Constitution.

The Function of the Family Advocate?
The Family Advocate is expected to make their services available to the public free of charge. Some of the services/functions of the Family Advocate include:

• To institute an inquiry so as to be able to provide the Court with a full report and recommendation regarding the welfare of a child or children;
• To provide mediation to parents who cannot agree on their rights and responsibilities relating to the child or children;
• To place or register a Parenting Plan already agreed upon by the parents, at no cost;
• Provide legal information to parents who wish to know more about their rights and responsibilities relating to their children;
• To provide assistance in order to ensure that a Parenting Plan being agreed upon, will be in the best interests of the child or children;
• To conduct forensic investigations relating to the best interests of a children or children, where necessary.

The benefits of the Family Advocate:
The benefits of engaging the assistance of a Family advocate are vast and include:

• A Family Advocate can terminate or amend parental rights and responsibilities
The rights and responsibilities of parents as described in section 18 of the Children’s Act, 2005. Parental Responsibilities and Rights include: Contact, Care, Maintenance, Guardianship
relating to the children. This means that parents do not need to go to Court if they want to amend the agreement they have relating to their child or children. This will enable parents to save time as well as legal costs;
• Family Advocates, and the reports and recommendations they provide relating to children, will enable to Court and increase the chances of a decree of divorce being granted;
• A Family Advocate will provide the children or children a chance to be heard regarding his/her position in the parties’ divorce or separation;
• The Family Advocate is a less rigid platform for children to voice their opinions, compared to that of a courtroom;
• A Family Advocate uses dispute resolution techniques, which avoids there being tension between the parties during mediation.

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