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A Simple Introduction to the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL)

What is the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL)?

The express purpose of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer or the OCL is to assist children involved in certain types of legal cases. OCL may step into a Family Law case when independent information about a child’s wishes is needed.

In Custody/Access or Child Protection Cases, the Children’s Lawyer will have various roles including:

  • Guiding the child through the process and being a source of trust and explanation
  • Review court documents
  • Determine the child’s position on certain matters and then advocating for the child at court

How does OCL become involved in a case?

The sole way that OCL becomes involved with a case, is at the request of a judge. If a judge decides that independent information about a child is necessary, they may ask OCL to get involved with the family.

It is then up to the discretion of OCL to decide whether to accept the case.

How Does OCL decide whether to take a case?

The OCL will typically agree to get involved in cases where it is understood that their services could be beneficial to the child(ren). Priority is given to cases where children are experiencing significant difficulties due to the conflict within the family.

Once OCL makes a decision (which typically takes a number of weeks), the OCL will send a letter to your lawyer (or to you, if you do not have a lawyer), informing you of their decision.

Can the Office of the Children’s Lawyer get involved in cases before they go to court?

No. However, in cases involved the Children’s Aid Society (“CAS”), OCL may become involved if the family is requested to attend an alternative dispute resolution process (“ADR”). This includes mediation, arbitration, family group conferencing etc. The CAS will typically inform the OCL prior to recommending ADR and the OCL will make a decision as to whether their input is beneficial for the child.

OCL has just become involved in my case. What happens next?

Once your case is accepted, the OCL assigns a lawyer, clinician, or both to your child. The OCL will send you a letter to that effect and guide you through the process from there.

The roles of the OCL Lawyer and OCL Clinician differ in that an OCL Lawyer will take the child’s wishes and perspective and advocate for it at court. Conversely, the OCL Clinician will prepare a neutral report for the court based on their own observations and perspectives and attempt to suggest ways to resolve pertinent issues.

Note: if both a clinician and lawyer are assigned to your case, the clinician will typically not prepare a report but instead work alongside the lawyer to meet with the child and assist in building a case for the child.

What Relationship Does the OCL have to the Parents of the Child?

The Children’s Lawyer exclusively represents the child’s interests and there is Solicitor-Client privilege between the lawyer and the child. Thus, the Children’s Lawyer will not tell parents about discussions with the child without the child’s consent. Furthermore, the Children’s Lawyer will not take instructions from the parents, and any correspondence between the Children’s Lawyer and the parents is not protected by Solicitor-Client privilege

What is an OCL Disclosure Meeting?

If OCL has provided a clinician to assist with your case, the clinician may organize a Disclosure Meeting for the parties. The purpose of a disclosure meeting is for the clinician to provide a summary of their investigation and their recommendations.

The purpose of the Disclosure Meeting is to assist the parties in clarification on the issues, clarity on the recommendations from the clinician, and to further a path towards settlement.

Speak to a Lawyer Today

Nussbaum Law is a team of legal professionals who can assist with your family law matter. We have extensive experience with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. Speak to one of the firm members and obtain your independent legal advice today.

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