How does the Office of the Children's Lawyer work?
When deciding custody and access, the court must consider the best interests of the child. One of the factors is "the views and preferences of the child". One of the many ways of bringing your child's wishes to the attention of a judge is the Office of the Children's Lawyer (OCL). In this post, we discuss in more detail how the OCL assists in custody/access disputes.
What is the OCL?
The Office of the Children's Lawyer is part of the Ministry of the Attorney General. It provides a number of services with respect to children's personal and property rights. This can include cases related to property claims, civil suits, estate/trust litigation, child protection, and custody/access disputes.
When asked to become involved in a file, the OCL will first determine if they will take on the file. They may decline to become involved; a Judge's order only requires them to consider becoming involved. If they agree to be involved, they will then determine what form of representation the child requires: a lawyer, a clinical investigator, or both.
How do I apply to have the OCL involved?
In order to have the OCL appointed to your case, you will require an order from a Judge requesting that the OCL be involved. You can ask the Judge for this at an in-person court appearance or in writing. If the Judge hearing your case agrees that the OCL would be beneficial, they will sign an Order requesting their involvement.
After the Order is signed, all the parties involved in the case will have 14 days to fill out the intake forms, which are available at the courthouse, or online here. It is important that you fill out every section with as much detail as possible and provide all the documentation requested. Once they have received your intake forms, you should hear back from them within 3-4 weeks with their decision to get involved or not.
For further information about the Office of the Children's Lawyer, please click here.
What does the OCL do?
The lawyer or social worker appointed to your file will interview all the parties involved, including the child(ren), as well as any third parties they deem necessary to determine the best interests of the child(ren). The lawyer or social worker will meet with the parties to discuss their findings and help them reach a resolution. If the parties cannot reach a resolution, they provide the parties and court a report of their findings. If a lawyer is assigned to the case, they will deliver their report via legal submissions in front of a Judge. In the case of a social worker, a written report will be provided.
If both a lawyer and social worker are assigned to your case, they will work together on the investigation and report.