A Children’s Lawyer acts as a legal representative or litigation guardian for individual Island children in parenting time and decision-making responsibility cases.
The goal of the Office is to protect and advocate for the best interests of children whose parents have separated or divorced and are engaged in high-conflict and complex disputes regarding parenting arrangements.
When the Children’s Lawyer represents a child, the Children’s Lawyer independently represents the needs and interests of the child. The Children’s Lawyer acts as the lawyer for the child, and does not represent either parent.
What issues can the Office of the Children’s Lawyer assist with?
The Office of the Children’s Lawyer only assists with the following family law issues:
- Parenting time
- Decision-making responsibility regarding a child
How does the Office of the Children's Lawyer become involved?
The Office of the Children's Lawyer (OCL) can become involved in parenting time and decision-making responsibility matters in one of the four following ways:
- If the issue of parenting time or decision-making responsibility is before the court, a judge can request that the OCL intervene to represent the child or their best interests.
- A parent or guardian can ask the Children’s Lawyer to represent their child. The parent or guardian can make this request themselves by filling out an OCL Intake Form. To request an Intake Form, call 902-368-4842.
- Any member of the public (e.g., teachers, family members, health care professionals, etc.) may request the Children's Lawyer to become involved in a matter by filling out a Referral Form. To request a referral form, call 902-368-4842.
- The Children's Lawyer may inquire in a matter on their own initiative.
The Children’s Lawyer can also represent children in dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, to assist parents in high-conflict situations to reach resolutions outside of the court.
Will the Office of the Children’s Lawyer automatically become involved if I ask them to be?
No, not necessarily. Just because somebody requests for the OCL to become involved in a matter does not necessarily mean the OCL will. When the OCL receives a completed Intake Form or Referral Form, the next step is for the OCL to do an inquiry to determine if it is necessary and in the child’s best interests for the OCL to become involved. It is up to the OCL to decide whether to become involved.
The OCL only intervenes in matters where parenting time or decision-making responsibility are in dispute.
Also, some times the OCL may determine that there are services other than the OCL that may be more appropriate for the family at this time, such as mediation, parent education courses, etc.
Does the Office of the Children’s Lawyer only become involved in Court cases?
No. The OCL can become involved in cases that are before the Court, and in matters that are not before the Court. The OCL ultimately decides whether or not to get involved in a matter.
I received a letter from the OCL that says they received a referral about my family. What does this mean?
If someone makes a referral to the OCL about your child, the next step is for the OCL to do an inquiry to determine whether to become involved in the matter or not. To help the OCL determine whether it is necessary and in your child’s best interests for the OCL to become involved, the OCL will usually need the child’s parents/caregivers to answer some questions. This is just part of the normal information-gathering that the OCL does to determine whether or not to get involved. If you have questions about the process, please call the OCL at 902-368-4842.
What happens after someone makes a referral to the Office of the Children’s Lawyer?
When the Court, a parent or guardian, or any member of the public requests that the OCL become involved in a parenting time and decision-making responsibility matter, the OCL first conducts an inquiry to determine whether it is necessary and in the child’s best interests for the OCL to become involved. The OCL may do this inquiry by reviewing the court file (if there is one), conducting individual interviews, making observations of the parent-child relationship, and collecting relevant information about the child from government departments and agencies, and other persons and organizations dealing with the child client (e.g. school, medical professionals, coaches, therapists, etc.). The OCL can require that this information be provided without the consent of the parents or the party or body that possesses the information.
The Children’s Lawyer can refer family members to services outside of the OCL that the Children’s Lawyer determines may assist the family, such as parent education programming, counselling, or mediation.
Where appropriate, the Children’s Lawyer will attempt to work with the parties to come to a resolution and to improve communication between parents and/or caregivers as well as to strengthen child-parent relationships.
If the matter is before the Court, the Children’s Lawyer might make submissions on behalf of the child in Court, and the Court will decide what is in the child’s best interests.
Is the Office of the Children’s Lawyer a free service?
Yes, the OCL is a free, government-funded service.
Who can I contact for more information?
Office of the Children's Lawyer