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The Office of the Children's Lawyer represents children under the age of 18 in court cases involving custody and access and child protection, as well as in civil, and estates and trusts cases.
The Office of the Children's Lawyer employs both lawyers and clinicians (social workers), who work on a fee-for-service basis across the province. Clinicians prepare reports for the court and help lawyers who are representing children.
Court cases involving child custody and access usually involve a child's parents, but they can also include other family members. Sometimes the court needs independent information about the child's needs, wishes and interests and asks the Children's Lawyer to help. The Children's Lawyer determines what services, if any, will be provided, and can assign:
If a children's aid society believes a child needs protection because of neglect or abuse, or believes that a child is at risk of suffering harm, it can start a court application called a protection application.
A children's aid society may remove a child from his or her family, either temporarily or permanently. A children's aid society can also ask the court to allow it to supervise a child's care while the child is left with his or her parents, or other members of the child's family or community.
Once a court case has started, the court may direct the Office of the Children's Lawyer to assign a lawyer to represent the child. In child protection cases, the Office must assign a lawyer if requested by the court.
For more information, visit Children's Lawyer Involvement in Child Protection
Children can't sue or be sued in their own name in civil cases. If there is no adult willing and able to present the child's claim, the court can require the Office of the Children's Lawyer to act as a litigation guardian (someone who makes decisions for a child in court proceedings).
The Children's Lawyer also reviews proposed settlements of civil cases in which children are involved, but only if it is asked to do so by a judge.
The Children's Lawyer represents child beneficiaries in some estate and trust cases.