In high conflict custody and access situations, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer may become involved in preparing a report to the court regarding custody and access. A report is prepared by an OCL investigator (usually a social worker) after interviewing the child, the parents, any other relevant parties, and obtaining information from the child’s teachers, doctors, etc. The investigator will make recommendations regarding what custody and access arrangements the child needs or wants, and to what extent both parents are able to meet those needs.
Although it is the judge who ultimately decides what is in the child’s best interests, the judge can take into account opinion evidence from qualified experts, such as those from the OCL, in determining best interests. The OCL investigator who prepared the report would be available to testify in court during the trial, and both parties would be entitled to cross examine them on their recommendations.
The OCL can become involved in a family law case either through the consent of the parties, or a court order. However, the OCL makes its own independent determination as to which cases it will accept and which cases it won’t. The court can only ask for the OCL’s involvement- they cannot mandate it. The OCL lists intake criteria on its website. These criteria should be reviewed to decide if it’s worthwhile obtaining a court order requiring the opposing party to participate in an OCL intake process.
Unlike private custody and access accessors, who are either social workers or psychologists, the OCL doesn’t charge the parents for the preparation of their custody and access reports.