There is confusion and mystery about the Offices of the Family Advocate and their function, but to explode the myth, the Family Advocate performs an extremely helpful and beneficial service.
If you and your Spouse are about to get divorced and you’re in dispute over your Minor Children, you would need the services of a Family Advocate. The dispute could be about primary residence (custody); contact; guardianship; a parenting plan; maintenance; an unmarried father’s application for custody, access or guardianship to his Minor Child; or other matters concerning Minor Children where the Court has specifically ordered the Family Advocate to interpose.
When parties cannot agree, the Family Advocate assesses such situations with the best interests of the Minor Child/Children at heart, and then makes recommendations to the Court with regard to the matter in dispute.
The Family Advocate assists the parties to reach an agreement on disputed issues, namely custody, access and guardianship.
This is done upon receipt of an application by the concerned parties. The Family Advocate, assisted by a Trained Social Worker, then interviews the parties to ascertain their personal circumstances and the background details to their matter. The Family Advocate then interviews the children to allow them the opportunity to be heard. This prevents the child from having to appear in Court
Some of the benefits of engaging the assistance of the Family Advocate are:
- If the parties can reach agreement on disputed issues the matter does not proceed to trial. This reduces costs and time
- The Office of the Family Advocate affords the Minor Children an opportunity to be heard with regard to their position in their Parents’ pending divorce
- The Family Advocate is a neutral person who focuses solely on the best interests of the child
- The atmosphere at the Office of the Family Advocate is child friendly and nothing nearly as daunting to a child as that of a courtroom
- The Family Advocate uses techniques of alternate dispute resolution, which help reduce the bitterness between the parties
- The Family Advocate may work in liaison with other professionals (example social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists), in assisting the family, and to ascertain what is in the best interests of the Minor Children
The other interesting and helpful points to note about the Family Advocate are:
- The Family Advocate cannot become involved in any matter that has already been finalized by the Court
- The Family Advocate cannot be subpoenaed to Court as a witness to give evidence on behalf of any party even if their recommendation is in favour of that party
- The Family Advocate’s recommendation is intended to assist the Court in resolving a matter and arriving at a particular order. The recommendation itself is not enforceable unless incorporated in a Court Order
- The Family Advocate is a neutral institution and cannot act as the legal representative for either of the parties involved in a matter
- The services of the Family Advocate are rendered to the public free of charge. The Family Advocate is a legal officer employed by the Department of Justice and acts as legal representative of the children