Tag: Children’s Lawyer
This week on Hull on Estates, Jonathon Kappy and Nick Esterbauer discuss the role of the Children’s Lawyer in Ontario and the recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Ontario (Children’s Lawyer) v Ontario (Information and Privacy Commissioner).
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The Ontario Court of Appeal recently considered the issue of whether the litigation files of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer are subject to a freedom of information access request in Ontario (Children’s Lawyer) v. Ontario (Information and Privacy Commissioner), 2018 ONCA 599. This appeal arose from a father’s request for the production of the Children’s Lawyers’ records. The Children’s Lawyer acted for the father’s children in the course of a custody and access dispute. Accordingly, a portion of the Children’s Lawyer’s records were privileged.
Justice Bennotto, in writing for a unanimous panel, found that the issue turned on whether the records are “in the custody or under the control” of the Ministry of the Attorney General for Ontario (“MAG“) for the purposes of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F. 31.
The answer was no.
The Children’s Lawyer’s records are not in the custody or under the control of MAG because she operates separately and distinctly from MAG and,
“ [she] is an independent statutory office holder appointed by Cabinet through the Lieutenant Governor. She derives her independent powers, duties and responsibilities through statute, common law and orders of the court.
 To allow a disgruntled parent to obtain confidential records belonging to the child would undermine the Children’s Lawyer’s promise of confidentiality, inhibit the information she could obtain and sabotage her in the exercise of her duties. This would, in turn, impact proceedings before the court by depriving it of the child’s voice and cause damage to the child who would no longer be meaningfully represented. Finally, disclosure to a parent could cause further trauma and stress to the child, who may have divided loyalties, exposing the child to retribution and making the child the problem in the litigation.”
For those practising in the estates and trusts context, it is important to note that the role of the Children’s Lawyer is different in family law.
In civil matters that implicate a minor’s financial interest in property, the Children’s Lawyer acts as the minor’s litigation guardian and she is represented by the lawyers of her choice. In custody and access disputes, the Children’s Lawyer acts, at the request of the court, as the minor’s lawyer.
Bonus answer: the current Children’s Lawyer is Marian Jacko.
Thanks for reading this week!
On March 30, 2011, the Family Law Section and Trusts and Estates Section of the Ontario Bar Association are holding a joint event to meet the Province’s new Children’s Lawyer, Ms. Lucy McSweeney. Ms. McSweeney was appointed to the position of Children’s Lawyer for Ontario on September 18, 2010. I understand that Ms. McSweeney’s legal background includes civil litigation, human rights, constitutional and labour law. The Office of the Children’s Lawyer is part of the Ministry of the Attorney General and provides legal services on behalf of children under the age of 18, and in estates, on behalf of the unborn and unascertained, as well.
Ms. McSweeney will address both the Family Law and the Trusts and Estates Sections. This event will allow those in attendance to meet and hear Ms. McSweeney. The program chairs are Dan Goldberg, Senior Counsel, Office of the Children’s Lawyer (Personal Rights) and Susan Stamm, Counsel, Office of the Children’s Lawyer (Property Rights).
For more information, please contact Blossom Pangowish, OBA Sections Co-ordinator, at (416) 869-0513, ext. 399 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you there.
Craig R. Vander Zee – Click here for more information on Craig Vander Zee.
Recently, a client came to me regarding the purchase of a family cottage. The client was obviously excited about his new purchase, and wanted advice as to whether he should include his minor children on title. As his children would ultimately inherit the cottage, he thought it would be a good idea to include them on title from the start. My client knew that if his children were joint owners, they would continue to own the cottage after he died by right of survivorship. Not only would capital gains taxes be deferred (until the children ultimately disposed of the cottage), but the cottage would not be included as an estate asset for the purposes of calculating the estate administration tax (i.e. probate fees). It seemed like the perfect plan.
However, despite my client’s best intentions, my advice was not to put his children on title. The problem was that if the cottage had to be sold or mortgaged while his children were still minors, a court order would be required. Moreover, The Children’s Lawyer would have to be put on notice if such a court order were requested. Finally, the court would only grant an order when it was of the opinion that the sale or encumbrance of the cottage was necessary or proper for the support or education of the children, or would substantially benefit them. In the end, it was better for my client to simply wait until his children were adults before transferring his interest in the cottage to them.