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Office of the Children’s Lawyer

Ontario
ontario specific information but
similar services exist in other parts of canada

What is the Office of the Children’s Lawyer?

The Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) is part of Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General. It can become involved in a custody and access dispute by providing a lawyer who will represent the child, a clinician who will write a report for the court, or both.

The OCL can also become involved in child protection matters, but this page is focused on its role in custody and access matters.

How does the OCL become involved with a family?

If you and your partner cannot agree on a custody arrangement for the children, you or the judge may decide that the involvement of the OCL might be helpful.

If the judge makes an order requesting that the OCL become involved, you have to complete an OCL intake form, which you can get from the court clerk or, if you have one, your lawyer. You must complete this form within 14 days of the order being made.

In a custody and access case, the OCL does not have to become involved just because the judge has made an order requesting this. (In a child protection case, it is different. If a judge makes an order, then the OCL must become involved.)

In a custody and access case, the OCL reviews all the information provided by you, your ex-partner and the court and considers a number of factors in making its decision about whether or not to become involved. One important factor is the presence of conflict within the family, so it is important for you to provide detailed information about any abuse you and/or your children have been subjected to.

It can take several weeks for the OCL to make a decision, at which point you will get a letter telling you what it has decided.

If the OCL appoints a lawyer

If the OCL decides to appoint a lawyer to represent your child, they will:

  • Meet with you and your ex-partner.
  • Meet with your child as often as the lawyer thinks is necessary.
  • Determine your child’s wishes where possible.
  • Contact people who might have relevant information. This could include your child’s teacher, doctor, coach, religious leader, etc.
  • Take a position that includes your child’s wishes and convey this to the court.

If the OCL appoints a clinician

If the OCL decides to appoint a clinician, they will:

  • Meet with you and your ex-partner.
  • Meet with your child as often as they think necessary.
  • Observe your child with you and your ex-partner, separately.
  • Contact people who might have relevant information such as your child’s teacher,
    daycare worker, doctor, coach, religious leader, etc.
  • Meet with you and your ex-partner to provide feedback and, if appropriate, suggest ways to resolve the issues.
  • Write a report for the court with details of the investigation and recommendations about the issues.
  • Share the report with you and your ex-partner.
  • File the report with the court.

Who makes the custody and access decision?

The OCL does not decide on the appropriate custody and access arrangements for your children. It is the judge who makes this decision, and they will take into account the position presented by the lawyer or the report filed by the clinician along with other evidence that has been submitted by you and your ex-partner.

You can find out more about the Office of the Children’s Lawyer on the Attorney General’s website: attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca.