TORONTO, July 3, 2014 /CNW/ - Eligible clients who are separating from their spouse can now get help from a Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) lawyer to negotiate and draw up a legally-binding separation agreement to settle custody, access, support and property issues.
With a lawyer representing each party, families can stay fully informed of the potential legal consequences of their decisions or actions, make the most of their time in court, and settle custody and access arrangements for their children, child support, spousal support and property division and equalization.
"Too many Ontarians wind up having to represent themselves in court because they either don't understand their rights or don't have the ability to hire a lawyer," says John McCamus, Chair of LAO. "By covering the cost of a lawyer to help negotiate and prepare a separation agreement, LAO can help clients resolve their issues earlier and help them avoid the family court process."
For those who are financially eligible, LAO will cover the cost of up to 10 hours with a family lawyer to help with:
- obtaining and reviewing disclosure
- preparing a sworn financial statement, where support or property are at issue
- engaging in negotiation and/or settlement discussions with the opposing party
- participating in mediation or an LAO settlement conference (if appropriate)
- preparing and reviewing a separation agreement
- finalizing a separation agreement
- converting a separation agreement into a court order (if appropriate)
- filing a separation agreement with the court (if appropriate)
When one spouse is financially eligible for a lawyer, the other spouse may also be eligible, as long as they earn up to a maximum of $50,000.
Individuals who are separating should contact LAO's toll-free line at 1-800-668-8258 to learn if they're eligible for lawyers.
This new initiative to address the unmet legal needs of unrepresented family litigants is part of a larger, long-term strategy to improve access to justice for low-income Ontarians.
One of a number of programs that LAO is developing with the use of $30 million over four years in additional provincial funding, it addresses a society-wide challenge. The Meaningful Change for Family Justice report in 2013 suggests that a number of barriers in accessing justice exist because of the limited resources available and the adversarial culture which pervades the family justice system. The Ministry of the Attorney General suggests that, in Ontario's family courts, approximately half of all persons may be without lawyers, at least at the outset of their court proceeding.
LAO's family law strategy aims to reduce the number of unrepresented family litigants, provide an avenue for consensual dispute resolution, expand the early resolution service sector and provide holistic and integrated services.
Each year, LAO allocates approximately $70 million to help more than 125,000 low-income Ontarians through a wide range of family law services, including summary legal advice, mediation, assistance from lawyers at family law information centres and family law service centres, representation by private practice lawyers, and settlement conferences.
SOURCE: Legal Aid Ontario
For further information:
For other questions or communication requests:
Phone: 416-979-2352 ext. 6015