Do children always have the right to independent legal advice when their interests are affected by a matter before the courts?
In Justice for Children and Youth v. J.G., 2020 ONSC 4716, the Divisional Court reviewed a decision by a Superior Court Judge denying a child access to independent legal advice in the context of a high custody dispute between his parents over custody and access. The Divisional Court’s decision helpfully explains the distinction between family courts exercising their discretion to deny a child legal representation and standing in a proceeding, and the right of a child to obtain independent legal advice. It also contains several powerful statements on the rights of children and the importance of courts respecting them as independent decision-makers whose rights are not contingent on the permission of their parents.