Faculty research assists successful appeal in family law case
June 26, 2018
An important decision in a family law case was decided by the Ontario Court of Appeal. A parent was denied access to a child’s personal information records from the Office of the Children’s Lawyer during an appeal.
The Appeals court cited important principles about children’s rights from the work of Dr. Rachel Birnbaum and her colleague Dr. Nicholas Bala stating: “Over the past several years, courts have taken great initiative to seek out and consider the views and preferences of the child. Professors Birnbaum and Bala explain:
The movement towards child inclusion in decision-making in education, medical treatment, and various areas of the law, including separation and divorce, has grown over the last decade. Studies have explored children’s rights as citizens, children’s perspectives on family relationships and what is a family, and children’s attitudes about parental separation and participation in the decision-making process about post-separation parenting. Research clearly suggests that children’s inclusion in the post-separation decision-making process is important to the promotion of their well-being.”
The Court found that safeguarding children’s privacy rights supersedes parental rights. This decision is in line with Bill C-78, an act to amend the Divorce Act, which focuses on a heightened awareness of children’s rights and ensuring children’s voices are heard in cases that affect their well-being.
Dr. Birnbaum is cross-appointed at King’s as a Professor in the School of Social Work at and in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Childhood and Social Institutions program. She has a unique set of qualifications which intersect the world of Social Work and Law as a Ph.D in Social Work and a Master of Law recipient. Her work examines the integration of theory, research and practice as it relates to Canadian children who are experiencing separation and divorce. Her research explores and influences policies defining the role that children can, and should, have within social and legal structures. She was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, Royal Society of Canada in 2016.