A Children’s Lawyer acts as a legal representative for individual Island children in parenting time and decision-making responsibility cases. The goal of the Office of the Children's Lawyer (OCL) is to protect and advocate for the best interests of children whose parents have separated or divorced and are engaged in regarding parenting arrangements.
When the Children’s Lawyer represents a child in a parenting time and decision-making responsibility 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 parenting time and decision-making responsibility case 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 (OCL) can become involved in parenting time and decision-making responsibility matters as follows:
- If a child’s parents or family members are involved in a court case and cannot agree on parenting arrangements for a child, a judge can refer the file to the OCL and request that a Children’s Lawyer intervene to represent the child. A party (e.g. parent) to a court proceeding where parenting time and decision-making responsibility is an issue can ask the judge to refer the matter to a Children's Lawyer, but it is ultimately up to the Children's Lawyer to determine whether to intervene in the case.
- Members of the public may request the Children's Lawyer intervene in a matter (e.g., teachers, family members, etc) and the OCL will determine whether to intervene.
- The Children's Lawyer may investigate a matter on their own initiative if a matter is before the Court.
The Children’s Lawyer can also represent children in dispute resolution processes, such as mediation, in order to assist parents in high-conflict situations 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 parenting time and decision-making responsibility case 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 OCL 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 might 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) 368-4842
Fax: (902) 368-5335