TORONTO, Oct. 6, 2014 /CNW/ - The Advocates' Society announces the release of a discussion paper – The Family Justice Reform Project – which recommends changes to the family justice system. The discussion paper is available here: http://www.advocates.ca/new/about-the-society/news/family-justice-reform-project.html
Experienced family lawyers from across Ontario considered solutions to the many challenges faced by litigants in the family justice system. They grappled with the difficulties faced by families in the process of family breakdown: approximately 41% of marriages end in divorce, resulting in approximately 70,000 divorces annually; 50 to 80% of family law litigants are not represented by lawyers and navigate through the system with little or no legal assistance; and even a short trial can cost upwards of $60,000 – a crippling expense for most litigants.
The Advocates' Society believes that the following changes should be implemented in the family justice system:
- Expand Unified Family Courts across the province to provide "one-stop shops" for family law litigants.
- Provide early intervention to address the needs of newly-separated families more quickly and to avoid undesirable circumstances such as a parent failing to pay child or spousal support.
- Increase the use of Dispute Resolution Officers (senior family law lawyers who act as intermediaries between family litigants and judges) to relieve pressure on judges and reduce backlogs in the system.
- Improve the Family Law Rules to ensure that parties arrive in court with the appropriate materials and are ready to have serious discussions about settling their issues.
- Increase funding for custody and access assessments, parenting coordinators and coaches to work with separating parents and children.
The Committee looks forward to working with stakeholders within the family justice system to implement real change. "Justices Cromwell and Winkler have called upon the family law bar to engage in more assertive advocacy on family law reform. As practitioners within the family law system we have a responsibility to accept the challenge and we have done so with this paper. Now we would like to actually move ahead with reform," said Martha McCarthy, Vice President of The Advocates' Society.
"We want to see changes in the family justice system, not just read about them," added Linsey Sherman, a family lawyer with Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP in Ottawa.
This discussion paper builds on the ongoing work of The Advocates' Society in promoting access to justice. Most recently, the Society intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia v. British Columbia (Attorney General) – a family law case in which the Supreme Court recognized a constitutional right of access to justice.
The Advocates' Society is an association of over 5,000 lawyers throughout Ontario and across Canada. The Society is dedicated to promoting the highest standards of professionalism within a fair and accessible system of justice. Learn more at: http://www.advocates.ca/
Image with caption: "The Advocates' Society (CNW Group/The Advocates' Society)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20141006_C2565_PHOTO_EN_6375.jpg
SOURCE: The Advocates' Society