A Children’s Lawyer acts as a legal representative for individual Island children in custody and access cases. The goal of the Office of the Children's Lawyer is to protect the needs and interests of children whose parents have separated or divorced and are engaged in custody and access conflict.
When the Children’s Lawyer represents a child in a custody and access case, the role of the Children’s Lawyer is to independently represent the needs and interests of the child.
How does the Office of the Children's Lawyer become involved?
The Office of the Children's Lawyer can become involved in child custody and access matters as follows:
- If a child’s parents or family members are involved in a court case and cannot agree on custody and access arrangements for a child, a judge can request that the Office of the Children's Lawyer assign a Children’s Lawyer to represent the child. A party (e.g. parent) to a custody/access court proceeding can ask the judge to appoint the Children’s Lawyer, but it is ultimately the judge’s decision.
- The Children’s Lawyer can initiate a custody/access proceeding, or intervene in a Court proceeding.
The Children’s Lawyer can also represent children in alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, in order to assist high-conflict parents to reach resolutions outside of the often adversarial court system.
There is no cost to families when the Office of the Children's Lawyer becomes involved.
What happens when the court appoints a Children’s Lawyer?
When the Court requests that the Office of the Children's Lawyer become involved in a custody/access case before the Court and the Office of the Children's Lawyer accepts the case, the Office of the Children's Lawyer and Clinician (social worker) in the Family Court Counsellors’ Office will assess what is in the best interests of the child. They will do this by 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 Office of the Children's Lawyer can require that this information be provided.
Where appropriate, the Children’s Lawyer and Clinician 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.
Failing agreement between the parties, the Children’s Lawyer will make submissions on behalf of the child in Court, and the court will decide what is in the child’s best interests.
Who can I contact for more information?
Office of the Children's Lawyer
Family Law Centre (Charlottetown)
Phone: (902) 368-4631