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Do I have the right to a lawyer in my child protection case?
The law says that there are some special situations where a parent has the right to a lawyer to make sure that their court case with the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is fair. In these situations, the government must pay for your lawyer.
To get the government to pay for your lawyer, you usually have to go to court and ask for a court order.
This type of order can be very hard to get. It will not happen in most cases.
How the court decides if you need a lawyer for your case to be fair
When deciding whether to give you a court order, a judge looks at several things:
- The type of order CAS is asking for in its protection application and whether it would remove your child from your care or otherwise put your relationship with your child at risk.
- If you can take part fairly in the hearing without a lawyer. The judge looks at your ability to represent yourself in court. For example, if you can prepare court documents and, if needed, cross-examine witnesses at a hearing.
- Your income and assets, and whether you can pay for a lawyer on your own or if you can get a lawyer through Legal Aid Ontario.
You need to show what steps you’ve taken to try to get a lawyer through Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). Your income must be low enough for LAO to pay for your lawyer.
Tell LAO that you’re involved in a child protection case. Also tell them if your child has been taken from you.
If LAO refuses your application, you should appeal the decision to the Area Committee. If you lose this appeal, you can appeal again to LAO’s Provincial Office.
You need to do everything you can to get a lawyer through LAO on your own before the court will order the government to pay for your lawyer.