Wed /July 17, 2016
If you are in the midst of a custody or access dispute, you may have heard of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, or the “OCL”. The OCL is a government body that has the power to investigate, report, and make recommendations to the court on matters concerning custody of or access to a child.
How Does the OCL Get Involved?
The OCL will only get involved in matters that are before the court. If litigation has commenced and one of the issues in dispute is child custody or access, either party can ask a judge to make an order requesting the involvement of the OCL. You can do this at your next court appearance (e.g. a case conference) or you can bring a Motion asking for the order. Once the order has been made, each party has 14 days to complete the Intake Form and mail or fax it to the OCL. The OCL will then decide if they will accept your case (the court order is a request only – the OCL has the discretion to decide whether to get involved or not). If they accept your case, they will also decide whether to assign a lawyer, a social worker, or both. Generally, social workers are appointed for children under the age of 10 and lawyers are appointed for children over the age of 10.
What Does the OCL Do?
Section 112 of the Courts of Justice Act sets out the OCL’s power to investigate, report, and make recommendations to the court with regard to custody and access of a child.
Once appointed, the OCL will meet with, observe, and speak to the children, the parents, and other relevant people, such as teachers and doctors, to determine recommendations for custody and access. The OCL will work with the parties to try to reach an agreement that they believe is in the children’s best interests. If the parties cannot agree, the OCL will advise the court of their position and the court will decide what is in the children’s best interests.
A report may also be completed that provides details of the investigation and sets out the recommendations with regard to custody and access. This report will be filed with the court. If a party does not agree with the recommendations or something else in the report, they have 30 days to file a statement disputing anything in it.
When is the Involvement of the OCL Not Appropriate?
The OCL will not accept a case if any of the following applies:
If you think the appointment of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer may be appropriate in your matter, it is important that you speak to an experienced family law lawyer. The courts give significant weight to the recommendations of the OCL, so it is important that you properly review the pros and cons before you ask the court to request their involvement. The talented lawyers at Radley Family Law can help you decide what is best for you and your children.
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