Giving children a voice in the legal system
Proposed legislative changes will better support children when their families are experiencing separation or divorce.
A new parenting coordinator and a new children’s lawyer are set to begin work this year, and amendments to the Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act, the Family Law Act, and the Judicature Act will support their efforts. The goal is to reduce conflict in families, reduce risk for children and give children representation in the legal system.
“The parenting coordination program and the new children’s lawyer will give children in high-risk family situations a stronger voice,” said Premier Wade MacLauchlan, minister of Justice and Public Safety and Attorney General. “By ensuring that supports are in place when children need them most, we can better protect children in high-risk situations and prevent high-risk situations from occurring.”
The first legislative addition will be parenting coordination, which helps parents implement existing parenting plans in a child-focused manner. This support is provided by specially trained professionals with the goal of minimizing conflict and reducing the risk to children. There will be a parenting coordinator at the Family Law Centre to provide court-ordered services.
Second, alternative dispute resolutions processes will be added to the justice system through family law arbitration. This will allow parents a more flexible, efficient, and collaborative alternative to resolve their disputes outside of the often adversarial court system.
Professionals in family law and mental health will be able to seek certification to practice parenting coordination or family law arbitration.
Third, a children's lawyer will legally represent children whose families are experiencing separation or divorce or are infringing upon their children’s best interests due to parental conflict. This front-line worker will be hired this spring and will work directly with children and the justice system. They will also be able to represent the child in alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, to help high-conflict parents reach resolutions outside the court system.
“In addition to the new supervised access and exchange program put in place last fall, and the upcoming proposed changes to the Maintenance Enforcement Program, Island children will be better protected and supported when the adults in their lives are in conflict, and children in high-risk family situations will have a stronger voice,” said the premier.
These programs are available, or will soon be available, through PEI’s Family Law Centre. More information is available at https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/family-law.
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Department of Justice and Public Safety