Question: It is being suggested that I seek to have the Office of the Children’s Lawyer appointed in relation to my custody and access matter. What does that mean?
Answer: First, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (or “OCL”) represents children under the age of 18 in court cases involving custody and access, as well as child protection cases and other types of cases involving children where necessary. Essentially, in the context of custody and access issues, the OCL is investigating and determining the child(ren)’s needs, wishes and interests.
The process generally is that:
- the court will make an order asking the OCL to become involved in a family law case,
- after the order is made, the parties each complete a detailed intake form and submit it to the OCL for consideration, and
- the OCL reviews the court’s order and the intake forms, and advises whether it will become involved or not.
If the OCL decides to become involved, it will send a letter advising in that regard. The OCL will also advise of the sort of assistance it will lend. The OCL can appoint a lawyer to represent the child(ren), a clinician to write a report for the court, or a lawyer and a clinical investigator. A lawyer is usually appointed for children who are older, in their mid to late teens.
The OCL will conduct a comprehensive investigation, including interviewing the parents, the child(ren), extended family, and any other important people involved with the child(ren), such as doctors, counselors, teachers, etc. At the end of the investigation, the OCL will conduct a disclosure meeting with the parents and their lawyers, during which the OCL advises what investigation was undertaken, what impression the OCL has, and the recommendations it has on the issues of custody and access. Although it only makes recommendations, those recommendations will be taken very seriously by the court when determining the issues of custody and access if the parents have not been able to resolve those issues between them.
We offer a free initial consultation, and would be happy to meet with you to discuss your situation at one of our three offices, including in Georgetown at 8 Guelph St., in the Lounsbury Life & Group Insurance Benefits building.