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Protecting the best interests of children

Most people are unaware of The Office of the Family Advocate’s roles and responsibilities until they need to utilise this service. This office deals with disputes between parents and/or family members regarding the children, where they are either born from or outside of a marriage relationship. Parents have certain rights and responsibilities with regard to their children. They are required to:

· Take care of their children

· Keep contact with the child

· Act as a guardian to the child

· Provide financial support for that child

· Provide for the needs of the child

Consulting with the Office of the Family Advocate may occur if:

· Disputes arise as a result of disagreements regarding contact, care and guardianship of children during divorce

· A parental rights and responsibilities agreement needs to be drafted and/or registered

· A parenting plan needs to be drawn up

· Parental rights and responsibilities need to terminated or amended and registered

· Disputes regarding unmarried fathers

· Court ordered inquiries into what is the best interest for the child

The Office of the Family Advocate (OFC) cannot get involved if a matter has been finalised in the court. The OFC is there to assist the court and is neutral and subsequently cannot be subpoenaed by the court or by either of the parties. A recommendation by the OFC’s office is not enforceable unless they have been incorporated into a court order.

An independent mediator’s role is to do the preparation work with regards the divorce and parenting plan with the parties to avoid lengthy and costly disputes. In the case of a parenting plan the following should be mediated and included in the parenting plan:

· Joint acceptance and responsibilities and rights by both parents

· Indicate where and with whom the child will live

· Maintenance issues

· Contact and an optional contact schedule for all parties and extended family if necessary

· Schooling and religious upbringing of the children

These mediated issues can then be presented to the court to be made and order of the court.

If you think I can help you, call me on 0828255505.

Source: Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of South Africa OFC brochure.

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