Barbara Kay calls for significant family law reforms in an article in the National Post, Real family-law reform must start with shared parenting.
She refers to several of the access to justice initiatives currently under way by the profession, but notes,
None of the reports examine the most measurable outputs of Canadian family courts: child support, custody and access orders.
The solution is a default presumption of equal shared parenting (rebuttable where there is demonstrable abuse). This was the recommendation put forward 15 years ago by the Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Child Custody and Access, whose exhaustively researched report promptly was routed to a political oubliette where, shamefully, it still languishes.
Andrew Feldstein, who practices family law with the Feldstein Family Law Group Professional Corp. has made a strong call for reform in family law.
Feldstein launched a new site, It’s Time for Justice, which has a free whitepaper on ideas for reform, including:
- Improving legal representation
- Prioritizing children
- Reducing delays
- Balance transparency with privacy
- Prevent future crimes
- Minimize trauma on extended families
- Change the win/lose mentality
- Recognize that Canadian culture is changing
Feldstein covers the initiative in the Law Times:
I cannot effect change by myself. I am looking for comments and constructive ideas from anyone who wants to help. Please don’t stand back. Get involved.
Omar Ha-Redeye spoke at the Ontario Bar Associations TECHxpo on technology and virtual law offices, explaining how innovation can improve legal services.
The Canadian Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee is identifying solutions for the problems in our court systems, and have released a summary report, Reaching equal justice: An invitation to envision and act.
My Support Calculator was covered by Luigi Benetton in The Lawyers Weekly:
…Toronto lawyer Omar Ha-Redeye is general manager of My Support Calculator, which offers a free spousal support calculation.
“Before this website was launched, there was no way for the public to do this,” Ha-Redeye says. “The spousal support advisory guidelines are so complex that there’s no way a self-represented litigant could get it calculated.”
Battling Court Gridlock With Tech Tools
The Law Commission of Ontario has released a new report looking at how to make the family law system in Ontario more inclusive and affordable.
The challenges created by unrepresented litigants are a particular focus in the report. The report states,
Although family law disputants keep being told to “get a lawyer”, many cannot afford to do so, are too “dispirited” or they do not know what lawyers do.
The report cautiously recognizes the use of unbundled services as part of the solution, and even indicates that expanding the scope of paralegals may be part of the solution.
In recent years there have been significant changes in the demand for legal services. The rising costs of legal representation have made traditional legal services unaffordable for many litigants, and there has been a significant increase in the number of self-represented litigants (SRL) in Canadian courts. These changes have prompted lawyers to consider alternative methods of providing legal services, including offering unbundled services to their clients.
The legal magazine Law Times recently conducted a poll about unbundled services. More than 100 law firms participated in the survey, and the Law Times reported the following results.
- 55% of lawyers who offer unbundled services found that doing so has helped them to attract more business, while a third of those surveyed found that offering unbundled services did have a positive effect on business.
- Enthusiasm for unbundled services was mixed, even among lawyers who offered such services. Many lawyers reported concerns about liability and the risk of law suits. Others reported that unbundled services do not always make financial sense, and that the time spent on unbundled services often exceeds the compensation received from clients.
- A third of the lawyers who were surveyed practice in family law.
- There has been an increase in demand for unbundled services among family law litigants. Surveyed lawyers reported that a substantial number of family law clients are “unwilling to pay for full representation in litigation but want coaching instead.”
According to the Law Times, a number of lawyers consider the provision of unbundled services to be a way of promoting greater access to justice.
The National Self Represented Litigants Project, spearheaded by Prof. Julie Macfarlane of the University of Windsor Law School, has released its final report entitled “Identifying and Meeting the Need of Self-Represented Litigants”. The 150-page report includes findings based on interviews with several hundred self-represented litigants in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, and presents statistical data and recommendations relating to self-represented litigants in all three provinces. An executive summary of the report is available here.
The report’s findings include the following statistics about self-represented litigants (SRL):
- 30% – 38% of all litigants in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario are self-represented.
- 60% of all SRLs are involved in family law litigation.
- The majority of family law cases involving SRLs are heard in divorce court (Superior Court of Court of Queen’s Bench).
- 54% of SRLs who were interviewed reported that they had a lawyer at some point during their litigation.
- The most consistently reported reason for self-representation was financial constraint, and the majority of SRLs who were interviewed reported that they did not have a lawyer because they could not afford to pay legal fees.
- Many litigants reported that they became self-represented in the middle of their family law dispute because they ran out of funds and could not continue to pay a lawyer.
- Another frequently cited reason for self-representation was dissatisfaction with the legal services provided by lawyers.
Among the report’s main findings was that SRLs are seeking legal information and “guidance” rather than legal advice or “direction”m and that resources providing legal comprehensive legal information are not readily available.
My Support Calculator is working diligently to provide self-represented litigants with comprehensive information about family law. To learn more about family law and the legal process, visit: www.mysupportcalculator.ca/blog. For a free calculation of your own or your partner’s support obligations, visit www.mysupportcalculator.ca/Calculator.aspx.
Family law files involve a lot of preparation, and there’s plenty of information exchanged between the sides.
Having the proper documents are absolutely essential, especially if a case appears as if it is going to court. But finding the original documents can often be a time consuming a frustrating exercise because people often don’t know what you need until someone tells you to look for it.
If parties are using represented, the lawyers will typically keep the originals of many of these documents. They are required to care for these documents properly, and will return them at the conclusion of the file or the termination of the retainer agreement.
One important exception to this is the pieces of identification you provide, which will be copied and returned to you immediately. Identification requirements are quite routine, and should not be taken as a sign that the lawyer does not trust you or thinks you are pretending to be someone else.
Click here to download or print this file.
Disclaimer: Although the checklist is very detailed, not all of the disclosure items listed will be necessary or relevant to your case. Furthermore, the checklist is not comprehensive and you may be required (or requested) to provide additional documentation that is not listed.
Any private information that you provide or receive in connection with your case should be used only for the purposes of resolving your family law case, and for no other purpose. Improper use of another person’s financial information may have legal consequences. This list has been compiled by My Support Calculator for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. You should always defer to a lawyer for legal advice.
Additional Documentation to Provide to Your Lawyer: Consider providing your lawyer with the additional information found in Information Required For Your Family Law Case. Ontario residents may also want to consider completing a draft Financial Statement: Draft 13.1 Financial Statement with Instructions (ON only)
One of the best ways that you can save money and keep your legal fees down is to be properly prepared. Family law cases can be complex and require a lot of information.
There are lots of documents that you can identify and locate when planning your family law file. But there’s also lots of questions and details that can come up during a file which help fill in the blanks.
In addition to obvious questions such as details about the parties, their relationship, and the children involved, the court or lawyers involved will also want to know employment information about you and your partner, detailed assets and liabilities, and information about the matrimonial home.
Bringing several pieces of identification for a meeting with a lawyer, and a chequebook, is usually a good idea. Identification requirements are common across Canada, and should not be considered an insult or a sign that the lawyer mistrusts you. A cheque may be needed to establish a retainer fee to establish the lawyer-client relationship, and the lawyer may want any existing child or spousal support payments to go through the lawyer’s office.
Filling out the following document will save you a considerable amount of time at a lawyer’s office, and should help the lawyer prepare for your file.
Click here to download or print this file.
See list of documents to provide to your lawyer: Basic Documents Required For Your Family Law Case.
For Ontario residents, also complete a draft Financial Statement: Draft 13.1 Financial Statement with Instructions (ON only).