Section 112 Investigation and Report


Section 112 of the Courts of Justice Act

I have received a letter saying “The Office of the Children’s Lawyer has agreed to provide a Clinical Investigation and Report pursuant to section 112 of the Courts of Justice Act.” What happens next?

The Office of the Children’s Lawyer will first assign a Clinician to the case and will always notify you in writing as soon as a Clinician has been assigned to your case. The letter will include the name of the Clinician.

Not long after that, the Clinician will contact you (or your lawyer if you are represented) to introduce themselves and to begin the process.

Why is the Office of the Children’s Lawyer involved?

The Court has made an Order requesting that the Office of the Children’s Lawyer get involved to help the Court better understand the issues between the parties and the needs of the child or children involved.

What is a “Report pursuant to section 112 of the Courts of Justice Act”?

A Report of the Children's Lawyer pursuant to section 112 of the Courts of Justice Act is a Report that assists the Court in determining what Custody and Access arrangements are in the interests of the child or children.

It is produced after a Clinician has gathered information about each party and the child or children named on the Order. The Clinician usually, but not always, makes recommendations regarding Custody and Access. The recommendations will highlight factors for the Judge to consider when determining what can best meet the child’s or children’s needs.

Once the Clinician has completed the Report it will be filed with the Court and mailed to the parties (or their lawyer if they are represented).

The Judge receives the Report and if your case goes to a hearing or trial, the Report will become part of the evidence.

The Judge however makes the final decision regarding Custody and Access.

Clinical Investigation

When the Clinician first contacts me (or my lawyer if I am represented) by phone what will happen?

When the Clinician contacts you (or your lawyer if you are represented) for the first time, they will introduce themselves and briefly explain the process. They will also request all Court file documents or endorsements related to your Custody and Access case (not financial documents).

The Clinician will then schedule a time to meet with you.

What is a Clinical Investigation?

A Clinical Investigation is an evaluation conducted by an Office of the Children’s Lawyer Clinician. The Clinician will investigate the Custody and Access issues that parties have brought before the Court.

The Clinician’s job is to interview, ask questions and gather information so that the Court understands everyone’s situation and the needs of the child or children.

How is a Clinical Investigation conducted?

The Clinician gathers information by asking questions about the child or children from significant persons in their lives and obtains the parties’ views, opinions and plans for the child or children.

To do this, the Clinician:

  • Meets with the parties in the case as many times as he or she believes is necessary;
  • Observes the child or children with the parties;
  • Meets with the child or children as many times as he or she believes is necessary;
  • Contacts sources of information that are relevant to the case (collateral sources), such as teachers, doctors, day care providers, community agencies therapists, Children’s Aid Societies, police etc.; and
  • May speak with friends or family members who live with either of the parties, who supervise visits, who help with exchanges or who act in a care-giving role with the child or children.

How long is the Clinical Investigation going to take?

Once the Clinician contacts you, it takes approximately 90-120 days to complete the investigation. There are, however times where we may require more time if the process is delayed.

Will you contact ‘collateral sources’ such as teachers, coaches, doctors, day care providers, community agencies, therapists, Children’s Aid Societies, police, family, friends etc. without my permission or knowledge?

We will only contact professionals with your permission.

The Clinician will ask you to sign release forms giving the Office of the Children’s Lawyer permission to contact these collateral sources.

Generally, family and friends providing collateral information do not require signed release forms; however we will not speak with family or friends without your prior knowledge.

Will you discuss my case with any of the ‘collateral sources’ such as teachers, coaches, doctors, day care providers, community agencies, therapists, Children’s Aid Societies, police, family, friends etc. that you will be contacting?

The release forms used by the Office of the Children’s Lawyer Clinician allow the Clinician to receive information about you or your family, but do not allow the Clinician to disclose information about you or your family.

If the Clinician has information or concerns that a child may be harmed or has been harmed, they are required by law to contact the local child welfare agency.

What if I or the other party refuse to sign the release forms allowing you to contact ‘collateral sources’ of information?

In order to conduct a thorough evaluation, we need to contact all relevant sources of information (collateral sources) such as teachers, coaches, doctors, day care providers, community agencies, therapists, Children’s Aid Societies, police etc. We would prefer that all parties sign the release forms allowing the Clinician to complete the evaluation.

When a parent or other custodial party refuses to sign a release form, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer may end their involvement with the case or seek the assistance of the Court.

Is everything I tell the Clinician confidential?

There is no confidentiality.

Everything that you, the collaterals or the other party tell us is not confidential and may become part of the final Report, except under very special circumstances.

Also, interviews with the parties and the child, including observation visits, will be recorded in the Clinician’s notes and may become part of the final Report.

Party Interviews

What happens during the Party interviews?

During the first Party interview with you, the Clinician will explain the purpose and process of the investigation, the time frame and the Clinician’s role and responsibility to the Court.

They will also explain their role and limits of confidentiality; that is, they will explain which of the information gathered will or will not be included in the Report.

During your Party interview, the Clinician will ask you questions in order to obtain enough background information and details about:

  • 1. The current dispute;
  • 2. Your concerns;
  • 3. Your history and the child’s or children’s history;
  • 4. Your child or children;
  • 5. The current Custody and Access arrangement;
  • 6. The arrangement you would like to have for the child or children.

You will be encouraged to provide the Clinician with all of the relevant information so that they can get a better understanding of your viewpoint.

You will also be asked to sign release forms granting permission to different professional "collateral sources" to share information with the Clinician who is conducting the evaluation.

At the end of the first Party interview, the Clinician will explain the purpose of the observation visits and arrange a time for an observation visit with you and the child or children. The first observation visit will occur in your usual visiting location.

I am the Applicant; do I get a Party interview first?

Not necessarily. The Clinician assigned will make calls to both parties, and the first party interviewed will depend on who responds first or who is available first. Regardless of who is interviewed first, the Clinician will make sure that both parties’ concerns are listened to.

How long do the Party interviews last?

Party interviews usually last around one and a half hours but on occasion, Party interviews may be longer.

Where do these Party interviews take place?

All Party interviews will be conducted in a private place; this may be in the Clinician’s office or in your home. Children should not be present for any of the Party interviews. Third parties should also not be present for the Party interviews unless there are special circumstances or special needs.

How many Party interviews will I need to attend?

The Clinician will interview the parties as many times as he or she believes are necessary. The initial Party interview will be in person however any additional Party interviews may happen in person or over the telephone.

The Clinician is aware of the importance of making sure that each party has a full and fair opportunity to speak with the Clinician. If more time is spent with one party, the reason for this will be noted in the Report.

Is there anything I can do to prepare for the Party interview with the Clinician?

Going through the Party interview process can be stressful. It is a good idea to prepare information that might be helpful, such as names and telephone numbers, before your Party interview. That way you can make sure that you have not forgotten any sources of information.

It is also a good idea to write down any questions that you have about the process etc. so that you can get answers to these questions during the Party interview.

If you have any questions about how the investigation is progressing, you can ask the Clinician at any time.

Which Party will be interviewed?

The Clinician will always meet with all of the parties named on the Order.

Am I allowed to bring anyone else (e.g. family member) in with me during the Party interviews?

Third parties should not be included in the Party interviews unless there are special circumstances or special needs.

The child or children should not be present for any of the Party interviews.

I am really nervous and uncomfortable about the whole process and I am afraid I will forget something and won’t have the opportunity to tell the Clinician everything I feel is relevant. How can I make sure that the Clinician knows this?

The Clinicians working with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer know that parties involved in Custody and Access disputes are often under a lot of pressure. The Clinicians are also aware that sometimes, when people are stressed they may have trouble remembering information.

You are always free to contact your Clinician to provide any additional information you may have forgotten during your Party interview.

What if I am unable to attend for a Party interview or need to reschedule a Party interview?

The Clinician will always arrange the Party interviews with your schedule in mind. If you are unable to attend at the scheduled time or location, contact the Clinician as soon as possible, so that the Clinician can reschedule your interview.

Observation visits

What is an observation visit with the child or children?

An observation visit is an opportunity for the Clinician to observe the child’s or children’s interactions within the family.

Observation visits usually take place after the first Party interviews have been held with all of the parties. The first observation visit will usually take place in the child’s or children’s home.

How long does an observation visit with the child or children take place?

Observation visits usually last one and a half hours in length but on occasion, observation visits will be longer. There may be more than one observation visit with each party.

What happens during the observation visit with the child or children?

The Clinician may ask the family to do an activity. The activity is usually something the family does on a regular basis, such as crafts or board games.

Families are asked not to watch television or use items like cell phones during the observation visits.

All those who normally reside in the home should be present during an observation visit. No one else should be present except for partners.

How many times will observation visits occur?

The Clinician will always hold an observation visit with all of the children listed on the Order requesting services from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, except in very special circumstances.

The Clinician will hold an observation visit with all the children as many times as he or she believes it is necessary.

Where do these observation visits take place?

Observation visits will usually take place in your home.

If access takes place at a Supervised Access Centre, the observation visits will take place at the Centre rather than at your home.

In cases where the child has not had contact with a party for a long time, the Clinician will decide whether it is necessary to end the investigation or pause the investigation, in order to prepare the child or children for an observation visit.

Is there anything I can do to prepare my child for the observation visit?

During your first Party interview, the Clinician will explain the purpose and process of an observation visit.

They will also provide information about how you can explain to the child or children who the Clinician is and what the Clinician will do.

What if my child or children refuse to participate in an observation visit with me or refuse to participate in an observation visit with the other party?

The Clinician will not force the child or children to attend an observation visit with anyone.

If a child is refusing to attend an observation visit with a party, the Clinician may decide to interview the child before an observation visit takes place.

The Clinician may decide whether it is necessary to end the investigation or pause the investigation, in order to prepare the child or children for an observation visit.

Child Interviews

Will the Clinician interview my child or children without me?

Yes, the Clinician will interview your child or children on their own. The Child interview is an opportunity for the Clinician to get to know and understand the child or children.

The Clinician will not ask the child or children who they want to live with and they will not ask the child or children to takes sides with respect to Custody and Access arrangements. They will not ask the child or children to choose between parents.

Where will the Child interviews take place?

All Child interviews will be conducted in a private place.

The Clinician may ask the child or children where they would feel most comfortable meeting for the Child interview. The Clinician may ask to interview them at the Clinician’s office, in a room in your home, at their school or at a private place in the community.

If the Clinician interviews the child or children at their school, they do not interview them in their classroom or in front of their peers or teacher.

If a child is not speaking yet, the Clinician will not interview the child, but may observe the child at a daycare or preschool.

How many times will Child interviews occur?

The Clinician interviews all the children named on the Order, as many times as he or she believes is necessary.

Am I allowed to attend or is anyone else allowed to be there with the child during the Child interviews?

The Clinician will always ask to interview child or children privately. A parent is allowed to bring the child or children to a Child interview but is not allowed to be there during the interview.

Is there anything I can do to prepare my child or children for the Child interview?

Yes, you could tell your child or children that the Clinician just wants to meet them to get to know them better.

Additional Information

What if I refuse to participate in this process or refuse to allow my child or children to participate in this process?

If a party refuses to participate in this process or refuses to allow the child or children to participate in the process, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer may end their involvement with the case and a Discontinued Report may be completed and filed with the Court.

What is a Discontinued Report?

Discontinued Reports are used in cases where the Office of the Children’s Lawyer is unable to complete or finish their investigation. A Discontinued Report tells the Court the reasons the investigation had to stop.

The Office of the Children’s Lawyer does something called a Disclosure Meeting. What is a Disclosure Meeting?

During a Disclosure Meeting, the Clinician will give you a summary of the investigation and what they have learned. They may also tell you about their recommendations and the reasons for those recommendations.

The Disclosure Meeting may assist you in coming to a settlement on your own.

When is a Report filed?

Once the Clinician has finished their Report, they will file their Report with the Court.

I have recorded cell phone messages/emails/text messages from the other party; will you listen to/review them?

We have a responsibility to allow the other party to respond to all of the information you provide to us.

If there is recorded phone messages, emails, texts etc. that you would like the Clinician to have, you must give a copy of that information to the other party (or their lawyer if they are represented).

What if we settle the case before we hear back from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer?

If you settle the case before you hear back from us, please notify your Clinician.

Does the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) decide what is in a child’s best interests?

The OCL does not make decisions, but rather it makes recommendations regarding Custody and Access, that are presented to the Court.

The parties can decide, or if they are unable to agree, the Judge will make the decision.

What if I disagree with a Report prepared by a Clinician or think there are errors in the Report?

If you disagree with the recommendations of the Report or think there is an error in the Report, you are free to make your concerns known to the Court during your next Court appearance.

Once the Office of the Children’s Lawyer Clinician has given you a copy of the Report, you have 30 days to serve and file a statement disputing anything in the Report (see rule 21 of the Family Law Rules).

What if I have to go to Court and have accessibility issues?

If you need accessible services or accommodation related to court services, please contact the accessibility coordinator in the courthouse that you are attending, as soon as possible to make arrangements. Contact information can be found on the ministry's website at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/Court_Addresses or by calling 416–326–2220 or 1–800–518–7901. TTY users may call 416-326-4012 or 1-877-425-0575.

When does the Clinician end their involvement?

The Clinician ends their involvement and is no longer assigned to your case once the Clinician files the Report with the Court. If you have any additional questions after the Children's Lawyer Report has been filed with the Court, please contact the Office of the Children’s Lawyer at 416-314-8000.