The office and function of the Family Advocate in South Africa
The office of the Family Advocate was established in 1990 to look after the wellbeing or needs of under aged or dependent children in divorce matters. The role of the Family Advocate is to assist the courts in establishing the best interests of minor children in civil legal disputes. The reports and recommendations made by the Family Advocate enable the court to evaluate the settlement reached by the parties and to establish whether it is in the best interest of the children. In certain instances the Family Advocate assists the courts in matters relating to domestic violence and maintenance.
The Family Advocate always acts in the best interests of the child in disputed matters such as care (custody), contact (access) or guardianship issues. The Family Advocate assists parties in reaching an agreement regarding this and makes recommendations to the court. There are numerous Family Advocate offices around South Africa including but not limited to Pretoria, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Mthata and Polokwane.
It is just important to note that a Family Advocate cannot become involved in any matter that has already been finalised by a court or be subpoenaed to a court as a witness to give evidence on behalf of any party even if his or her recommendation is in favour of that party.