In recent years many observers, including lawyers and judges, have expressed concern over the growing number of self-represented litigants in family courts across the province. Many Ontarians are forced to navigate the complexities of the family law system without the help of a qualified legal professional either because they cannot afford a lawyer or they believe they can manage on their own. Unfortunately, the family law system can be difficult to navigate and the lack of legal advice can negatively affect the outcome of a person’s case. As a result, the provincial government of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) have announced that they will be seeking public feedback on a proposal to help families access qualified family legal service providers.
In an effort to improve access to justice for families, the Honourable Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo will spearhead a review to consider whether alternate legal service providers such as paralegals, law clerks, and students, should be permitted to handle certain family law matters. Justice Bonkalo will also request input on what types of legal services, which provided by alternatelegal service providers, could improve the family law system. She will also recommend education, training, and regulatory procedures and safeguards to ensure the quality of family legal services provided by alternate legal service providers. Justice Bonkalo is a part-time judge and former chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, who retired in 2015.
The deadline for the public to provide comments on the consultation document is April 30, 2016.
Justice Bonkalo will submit her recommendations to the Attorney General, Madeleine Meilleur, and LSUC by September 15, 2016.
“Navigating the family law system without the help of a qualified legal professional can be a daunting task, yet so many Ontarians feel they have no other choice. I am grateful that Justice Bonkalo has agreed to lead this review, which I hope will identify new ways to connect families to more accessible and affordable legal advice and support. I look forward to the results of this review,” said Ms. Meilleur.
To submit your comments or questions electronically, send an email to FamilyLegalServicesReview@ontario.ca with the subject line “Family Legal Services Review”. You may also send your comments by mail or fax to:
Family Legal Services Review
Ministry of the Attorney General
720 Bay Street, 7th Floor
Fax: (416) 326-4289
If you would like to speak with an experienced family lawyer in the Windsor and Essex County area, please contact Jason P. Howie, online or at 519.973.1500.