Ontario appointed guardians to help family members navigate court

The on-site special advocate program has appointed two guardians to help student, mother and teacher navigate Ontario’s justice system. Unsuccessfully challenging the student’s decision to terminate all relationship support is its goal, although “our…

Ontario appointed guardians to help family members navigate court

The on-site special advocate program has appointed two guardians to help student, mother and teacher navigate Ontario’s justice system. Unsuccessfully challenging the student’s decision to terminate all relationship support is its goal, although “our preference is to return both parents to school,” says Rob Fiacco, the attorney general’s appointed guardian.

Appointment of special advocates also means more cases that previously did not have a direct relationship with the court system, said Deborah Forbes, the provincial executive director of advocacy with National Association for the Education of Children with Disabilities.

“The assumption is that maybe you won’t know about the case unless you’re an advocate. But many families don’t know about it. Maybe the social worker never mentioned it,” she said. “The goal is that someone who really cares about the child will be able to advocate in the court for the child, whether that’s through parent, and the special advocate will basically facilitate it.”

Changes in Family Law

Ontario’s Family Court has been updating its policies in response to the increased number of divorces involving children and the need to provide support for children in court, she said.

“Our lawyers are getting more kids into court cases because we need to be proactive in coming to the court and informing the children about their legal rights,” she said.

For children, living with their divorced parents is often preferable to adoption, Forbes said.

“As we’ve seen an increase in the number of children (who are) working with both parents to resolve the co-parenting issues between them, it helps children to stay in one home,” she said.

The advocate works to advise the children when they will be notified that their parents have a court case against each other, what the consequences of being involved will be for them, and what their next steps would be if they opt not to testify, Fiacco said.

“It’s a really positive thing, to have a parent who really cares about the child take the time to come and talk to you about their child,” he said.

“Ultimately, the child stands by the decision of the judge in a case. Whether they agree with it or not, they have a legal right to have a voice in the process.”

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