TORONTO, Feb. 18, 2014 /CNW/ - Under a new pilot aimed at reducing unrepresented family litigants and improving outcomes, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) will cover the cost of a family lawyer to support clients who choose mediation and to transform those agreements into legally-binding documents.
"In looking at expanding access to justice for low-income Ontarians, mediation is a good alternative to having a judge or a third party step in to resolve family relationship issues," says John McCamus, Chair of LAO. "This voluntary process empowers people to resolve their family legal issues for themselves - and with this pilot, they can be assured that the end result is legally binding."
Mediation clients in select locations can call LAO's toll-free line to learn if they're financially eligible for up to six hours with a lawyer who can then help the client before, during and after entering into any legal agreement based on the mediation. Clients can receive advice from a lawyer about the mediation process, assistance in preparing for the mediation, or develop a better understanding of their options. The lawyer can also assist with obtaining a court order or binding agreement to enforce the terms of the mediation agreement.
These types of agreements are developed by separating couples who are willing to work together with the help of a neutral mediator. With a mediator's guidance, two people can make decisions together on family issues such as custody, child access, and parenting plans, child support or separation agreements without the additional stress of litigation.
The pilot will run in the following locations:
- North York
- Owen Sound
LAO believes that providing legal advice will help families achieve sustainable outcomes that meet their needs. LAO will be evaluating this pilot and will consider the possibility of rolling out this service province-wide within 2014.
All mediation clients should either contact LAO's toll-free line at 1-800-668-8258 or speak to LAO staff in courthouses or Family Law Information Centres to see if they are eligible for independent legal advice.
The pilot is the result of valuable feedback from various stakeholders that LAO consulted with. It is one of a number of family law projects that LAO is undertaking with the $30 million over four years in additional funding from the provincial government. LAO is investing the majority of this funding into making sustainable improvements to family law programs and services.
SOURCE: Legal Aid Ontario
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