The Office of the Children’s Lawyer & Section 89 of the Courts of Justice Act

March 4, 2024 Plat Simionati

The Office of the Children’s Lawyer & Section 89 of the Courts of Justice Act

Disclaimer: This article aims to provide educational information surrounding the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. It is not intended to serve as legal advice. Consult with a lawyer and exercise your discretion before taking action based on the information provided in the blog.

Being well-informed about your choices will help you make the best decisions for your child. Knowing and understanding your options is crucial, whether it involves selecting a place to live or researching summer camps. 

Our previous articles delved into the various avenues available to represent your child’s best interests when resolving legal matters. We explored the involvement of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer in appointing a clinician for investigations.

This article looks more closely at The Office of the Children’s Lawyer’s role when it appoints legal representation for your child under Section 89 of the Courts of Justice Act.

An overview of the role of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer

The OCL is entrusted with safeguarding the rights and interests of minors or those under 18 years old. It operates within the Ministry of the Attorney General in Ontario and ensures that the views and preferences of a child are well-represented in legal matters.

Besides family law cases (which we will discuss below), the OCL also acts on behalf of children in estates and trusts, such as when a child receives an inheritance. The court may also request an appointment in litigation proceedings.   (You can learn more about their role at

When would the OCL get involved in family law cases? 

The OCL may be appointed in cases involving parenting issues. They can also be appointed in high-conflict cases or some child protection cases where abuse or neglect is a factor.  

Each party would complete a detailed intake form outlining the current relationships, arrangements, and any involvement with the Children’s Aid Society and police. 

If it accepts the case, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer has options: it can appoint a lawyer or clinician (usually a social worker) or both. In this article, we discuss the process when a clinician completes an investigation. 

In our experience, the OCL is more likely to appoint lawyers under Section 89(3.1) in cases where the child is older (generally over seven years old). The Office of the Children’s lawyer will only become involved in matters before the court and after a judge requests their involvement.  

Is the OCL obligated to accept your case?

In child protection cases, the OCL must accept cases when ordered to do so by a judge. However, in parenting dispute cases, even if the judge recommends that the OCL take the case, it will carefully evaluate the case’s details first. There are specific criteria that may lead it to reject such a request. These factors include: 

  • There is a current or expected order for assessment or mediation, or one is already in progress.
  • An assessment of custody and access was completed within the past year.
  • The case history shows multiple assessments or prolonged legal battles with little chance of resolution.
  • There are serious mental health concerns concerning a parent or the child, and no mental health assessment has been done or finished.
  • The main concerns relate to support or property issues; parenting time arrangements have been relatively stable.

It may also include factors like the child residing out of the province or matters where an investigation is underway.  

What is the process if the OCL appoints a lawyer under Section 89 of the Courts of Justice Act?

When the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) steps in under Section 89(3.1) of the Courts of Justice Act, they assign a lawyer to represent the child. Before representing the child in court, the lawyer will take certain steps. They talk with the child and their parents. If relevant, they will also gather feedback from schools, doctors, and sometimes the Children’s Aid Society.

Their goal is to truly get to the heart of what the child wants and how they feel. When forming the child’s position, the lawyer will carefully consider all aspects, like how strong and consistent the child’s wishes are and the circumstances around them.

Once the lawyer has the whole picture, they share the child’s position during a disclosure/settlement meeting with the parents. 

However, if the parties can’t agree and the matter goes to court, the OCL lawyer represents the child there. The lawyer will not prepare and file a report like a clinician does after their investigation. 

Does the OCL make parenting time and decision-making responsibility decisions?

Contrary to popular opinion, the OCL does not have the authority to make final decisions regarding parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Instead, it will advocate the child’s position in court.  Considering all presented evidence, the judge ultimately makes the final determination in the child’s best interests.

Family Law Advice You Can Trust with Plat Simionati LLP

Effectively navigating family law matters, particularly those concerning children, demands expert guidance. At Plat Simionati LLP, a reputable Ontario-based law firm, we are ready to offer the essential advice and legal representation you need. 

Our services extend beyond traditional litigation; we guide clients through alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation and collaborative law. However, if court intervention becomes necessary, we can adeptly represent you in all proceedings. 

At Plat Simionati LLP, we understand the complexities involved and can provide tailored support for your preferences and circumstances. Please contact our experienced team to discuss your options today.