Hello. I am Jeffrey Hart with the Feldstein Family Law Group. When a relationship is breaking down, one spouse often thinks they will gain an advantage against the other spouse by reporting that person to the police or a Children’s Aid Society.
Today, I’d like to discuss with you some things to consider when dealing with the police or a Children’s Aid Society in a family law matter.
When a client tells me that the police would like to speak to him or her regarding an incident with their spouse, the first advice I give my clients is not to speak to the police.
There are many reasons why remaining silent is the smartest tactic. In fact, it is your right. Often, clients think that if they speak to the police, they can talk their way out of being charged with a criminal offence. That’s why they are very eager to speak to the police.
One pitfall is that you do not know what your spouse has told the police. And you do not know if the police fully believe the story your spouse has told. In speaking to the police, you may corroborate a fact that ultimately leads to you being charged. Had you refused to speak, you may have not been charged at all. The safest path is the best path. Until you know the full story, you should exercise your right to remain silent.
If ultimately the police decide to charge you, it should be because you provided evidence that led to them doing so. If you are charged, please seek out the services of a criminal lawyer.
A Children’s Aid Society
When a client tells me that a Children’s Aid Society would like to speak to him or her regarding a referral that we know has come from his or her spouse, the first advice I give my clients is to cooperate with the Society.
As I have been counsel for a Children’s Aid Society, I can tell you from experience how Children’s Aid Societies in the Province of Ontario, generally, work. Each Society has been given the broad task of investigating whether a child is in need of protection, and that can involve taking referrals regarding at-risk children from a professional like a doctor, a concerned citizen, and very often, separated spouses. If they determine that a child is not in need of protection, that’s the end of it. If they determine that a child is in need of protection they may bring the matter to court, where the resources of the state are marshalled against the parent or parents of the child in question.
Here’s the key point to remember about any Children’s Aid Society: the Society is trying to assist your children, not you. Where your best interests and the best interests of your children diverge, the Society will be guided by their mandate, which is to see that children’s best interests are served. This might be, and often is, to the detriment of one or both parents.
Although a Society does consider the motivation of the referral source in deciding how it should proceed with an investigation, please remember that the Society is “a shield and not a sword.” This means that the Society is predisposed to protecting children from harm rather than pointing fingers. A referral from a doctor who is genuinely concerned with the welfare of a child—that’s a shield. A referral from a separated spouse who has something to gain in a custody battle—that’s a sword.
A Society must still consider investigating every referral, but keep in mind they are very conscious of being used by separating spouses who are in a custody dispute. That’s why they often stay out of custody disputes altogether, unless forced, either by circumstances or by a Court, to get involved.
A Children’s Aid Society is essentially trying to gauge the risk level of physical and/or emotional harm with a particular child. So, not cooperating with the Society will make it more difficult for the Society to assess risk and ultimately close their file. In fact, a parent who is not cooperating can be perceived as a risk factor in and of itself, and can be part of the puzzle in determining whether a child needs protection. Faced with non-cooperation by one or both parents, a Society will almost always draw an adverse inference against the parent or parents. They think a non-cooperative parent may be hiding something, which may increase their level of involvement or sometimes the intrusiveness of Orders they are seeking from a Court.
These are just some of the things you should consider when dealing with the police or a Children’s Aid Society in the context of your family law matter.
You may want to consider retaining a lawyer to guide you through your family law matter and to advise you on dealings with the police and a Children’s Aid Society.
For more information on this topic, please visit our website or call us to schedule an initial consultation at (905) 581-7222. Thank you for watching.