A Children’s Court is a special court which deals with issues affecting children. Every Magistrate’s Court in South Africa is a Children’s Court. The Children’s Court also takes care of children who are in need of care and protection and makes decisions about children who are abandoned, neglected or abused. The rights, development, well-being, care and safety of South African children and youth is governed by the Constitution and various laws. Section 23 of the Children’s Act 33 of 2005 enables any person having an interest in a child/ren to apply to the Children’s Court for an order for care or contact with the child/ren.
Powers of Children’s Courts:
Like other Magistrates’ Courts, Children’s Court’s are creatures of statute and have no inherent jurisdiction. This means that they have only the specific powers which are set out in the Act and other relevant statutes.
The Children’s Court is not a criminal court and matters of criminal nature are referred to the appropriate criminal court. The Children’s Court is a special child-friendly legal space that deals with the protection of children and is an environment within which a minor feels safe and enabled to express himself or herself. This court’s purpose is to champion the rights and well-being of child/ren and to take care of child/ren who have suffered neglect, abuse or abandonment by their birth or foster family, or another individual or entity with a responsibility to act as a primary guardian.
Who can approach the Children’s Court:
Anyone can approach the Children’s Court, however the following individuals have a duty to report a case of potential child abuse, namely :
- Social workers
- Ministers of religion
- Traditional leaders
Based on the initial report and available evidence, the court process usually entails appointing a social worker who represents the child/ren’s interests and ensures the child/ren’s temporary safety while assisting to ascertain the merits of the reported case.
Thereafter, the Children’s Court will hold closed hearings. The child/ren may give evidence from another room via video or with assistance of the lawyer.
Upon completion of the enquiry, the Children’s Court will make the appropriate Order based on what is in the best interest of the child/ren.
For direct answers to your specific personal questions, please contact us directly.
Read more about our child law services.
Author – Kate Bailey – Hill