2. Get expert opinions
There are other people that you or a judge may want to hear from to help the court make a decision.
The Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) represents children under the age of 18 in some court cases. The OCL also represents parents who are under 18 and involved in a child protection case.
They are independent from the (CAS) or any parent.
CAS or you as a parent can ask the court to order that the OCL be involved in the case. The OCL must get involved in every child protection case if the court asks it to.
If the court agrees, the OCL lawyer will:
- meet with your child as many times as needed
- try to find out your child's wishes, if possible
- speak with other people in your child's life, such as their teacher, doctor, or therapist
- meet with you and anyone involved in the case to get feedback and, sometimes, to suggest ways to resolve the issues
- let the court know what they recommend after taking into account your child's wishes and other important information
The OCL is a free service.
Getting the OCL involved can delay a case. This is because the OCL needs time to meet with your child, you, and anyone else who might have helpful information about the case.
If a judge believes they need the evidence of an expert to help decide a case, they can order an assessment of:
- your child
- you or your child's other parent or both of you
- anyone who wants to care for, have of, or have to your child
An assessment is a report prepared by an expert such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. They are independent, which means they don't take CAS or a parent's side.
The report gives the expert's opinion of a person. This means they tell the court what they think about things like the person's physical and mental health, education, and how they get along with other people.
You or CAS can also ask for an assessment.
You may ask for an assessment if you and your lawyer think it could reduce some of the concerns CAS has about your ability to care for your child.
If the court orders an assessment, you can't be forced to take part. But if you don't, the court may assume that the assessment wouldn't have helped your case. This may seriously hurt your case.
CAS usually pays for an assessment, but not always. The will say who pays for it.
Before agreeing to or asking for any assessment, it's important to get legal advice.
Assessments are filed with the court and given to CAS, you, and anyone involved in the case. The assessment can be used as evidence in your case.
If your child is 12 or older, they also get a copy of the report, unless the court thinks that the assessment report may harm your child emotionally.