A child, while not a mandatory party, can participate in a legal proceeding with respect to parenting time. Under the Family Law Rules and Rules of Civil Procedure, Ontario courts permit the authorization of a lawyer to represent children in a proceeding through the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. They are not deemed to be a party but are afforded the same right to be heard as one, unless the court orders otherwise. This allows for their views to be expressed as they wish in the matters that affect them.
The Office of the Children’s Lawyer (“OCL”) assigns a lawyer, a clinician, or both. The OCL will review all files provided and make a determination on amount of involvement to provide to each. It is not mandatory that they partake in the case but solely done by request.
The court has the power to appoint a clinician to assess and report the needs of the child. The individual appointed by the court does not need to be agreed upon by the parties. The report is provided to the court and the parties to act as an aid in coming to a resolution in the best interests of the child. It is filed into the case’s Court file. Additional expert evidence is permitted to determine the needs of the child and the parties willingness and ability to meet those needs.
The OCL lawyer independently represents the child’s interest in the proceeding. They meet with the child and relay the views and preferences of the child to the court and parties. OCL lawyer’s do not file a report with the court; clinician’s do.
Every case has a unique set of circumstances. If you require assistance, we urge you to contact our office to speak with a lawyer regarding family law.