CBABC has made a request to the Deputy Attorney General to amend section 203 of the Family Law Act. The proposed amendment would lower the threshold before the court can order a legal representative for a child who is involved in a family law matter. The amendment also includes aligning the BC legislation with other jurisdictions by removing barriers to appointing counsel to assist children with their rights.
British Columbia is the only province or territory in Canada where the threshold for exercising the statutory power to appoint a children’s lawyer is a degree of conflict between the parties so severe they cannot act in the best interest of the child.
When cases that impact children are before the courts, actual independent legal representation throughout all the court processes may be needed to protect and promote the rights and interests of children.
In addition to representing a child’s interests, a children’s lawyer can help to facilitate settlements, while ensuring the children and youth are afforded safeguards and guarantees to protect and promote their rights and interests. Allowing counsel to fully participate on behalf of the child, while not making the child a party to their parents’ legal dispute, will ensure that the child’s needs and preferences do not get diluted by the parents’ separate assessments of what is best for the child.
For these reasons, CBABC requests that section 203 be amended to read:
203 (1) The court may at any time appoint a lawyer to represent the interests of a child in a proceeding under this Act.
(2) If the court appoints a lawyer under this section, the court may allocate among the parties, or require one party alone to pay, the lawyer's fees and disbursements.
(3) If the court appoints a lawyer under this section, the child has the rights of a party, unless the court orders otherwise.
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