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 and advocate for the best 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.
Effectively, the Children's Lawyer provides a voice and is an advocate for the children in high-conflict custody matters where the parents of the children are not able to put the best interests of children first.
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 refer the file to the Office of the Children's Lawyer and request the Children’s Lawyer intervene to represent the child. A party (e.g. parent) to a custody/access court proceeding can ask the judge to refer the Children’s Lawyer, but it is ultimately the Children's Lawyer who determines whether to intervene in the case.
- Members of the public may request the Children's Lawyer intervene in a matter (ie, teachers, family members, etc) and the OCL will investigate the referral to determine whether to intervene.
- The Children's Lawyer may investigate a matter of their own initiative if a matter is before the Court.
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, the OCL investigates the file to determine whether the Children's Lawyer ought to intervene in the case. The OCL may 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.) and reviewing the court file. The Office of the Children's Lawyer can require that this information be provided without the consent of the parents or the party holding the information.
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.
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