Hello, my name is Veronica Yeung and I am a lawyer with the Feldstein Family Law Group. Today I’m going to discuss the role of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer in your family law matter.
The Office of the Children’s Lawyer, also known as the “OCL”, is a law office within the Ministry of the Attorney General. The OCL provides free legal assistance in certain circumstances and delivers programs in the administration of justice on behalf of children under the age of 18 with respect to their personal and property rights.
The OCL has two types of professionals who administer its services:
- OCL Lawyers who are tasked with representing children in various areas of law including child custody and access disputes, child protection proceedings and estate matters; and
- Clinical investigators who prepare reports for the court’s consideration in custody and access proceedings. These reports usually contain recommendations about custody / access arrangements that the clinician believes would be in the children’s best interests. These investigators may also assist the OCL lawyer representing a child in a custody / access dispute.
The OCL may become involved in high conflict custody / access situations where a child’s wants, needs, and preferences are difficult to determine. An OCL lawyer acts as legal counsel for the child and provides a voice for the child’s needs, wants, and best interests in the parents’ matrimonial dispute.
For the OCL to become involved in your family law matter, their appointment must be requested by court Order. One or both parties can request such an Order from the judge or the judge can decide on their own to make an order requesting the services of the OCL in a matter.
When an OCL Order is made, either the Court or the parties must serve the Order directly on the OCL by fax or mail. Both parties must then complete the OCL’s intake forms and fax or mail the completed forms with a copy of the OCL Order to the OCL’s office within 14 days of the Order being made. It is crucial that the parties do not miss the 14-day deadline as the OCL generally does not permit extensions for submitting the requisite intake forms.
Once the OCL has reviewed the parties’ intake forms, it will decide if it will become involved, and if so, to what extent. The OCL does not accept every file that is requested of them, and they have the final say in whether they will become involved in a specific case.
It is important to keep in mind that the OCL acts solely for the child and in the child’s best interests. As such, the OCL lawyer only takes instructions from the child they represent and that relationship is covered by solicitor-client privilege. Their parents have no right to instruct the OCL or to become involved with the child’s relationship with their OCL lawyer.
That’s it for today. If you have any questions about the OCL or their involvement in your matrimonial matter, please check out our website, www.separation.ca for more information or feel free to call us at 905-415-1636 to book an initial consultation with one of our lawyers.