The Office of the Children’s Lawyer or “OCL” represents children in active court proceedings in the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice who are under the age of eighteen in cases involving issues such as custody, access and child protection.
A parent, family member, interested third party or the Court may request that the Office of the Children’s Lawyer become involved in a case. A court may make an order for the OCL to become involved in a case, but it is ultimately up to the OCL to determine if it wants to accept a particular case. A detailed intake form must be completed and submitted to the OCL within a prescribed period of time for the OCL to consider accepting the involvement.
The OCL will review all information provided to determine which children are most in need of help. Families with high conflict situations, in which the children are experiencing significant difficulties, may have a better chance of being assisted by the OCL.
Once the OCL accepts a case it will advise if a lawyer or a clinician (usually a social worker) or both will be assigned to the children.
If a lawyer is assigned to represent the child then that lawyer will act as the child’s counsel and will represent the interests of the child. Usually lawyers are only assigned to older children who are over the age of ten. The lawyer will meet with the child, the child’s family and anyone asking for custody or access to the child. The lawyer will represent the child at court and present the position that best reflects the child’s wishes and any information ascertained from third parties such as parents and teachers. A lawyer will not file a report with the court.
A clinician may be assigned to the child to conduct an investigation and prepare a custody/access report under section 112 of the Courts of Justice Act. These reports are intended to provide recommendations to help parents make decisions about structuring parenting plans. The clinical investigator will meet with the children, the family and other sources such as the school and daycare prior to making a determination on the issues. Clinical investigations are usually assigned to children under the age of ten.
To learn more about the various roles of the OCL please visit the following links:
Office of the Children’s Lawyer Website:
OCL Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):