In 2009, the federal government introduced a family law program called the Supporting Families Experiencing Separation and Divorce Initiative, which provided grants for projects and resources to help couples who are separating or getting a divorce. The Initiative facilitated the effective delivery of programs and services, such as parent education, mediation, support enforcement and child support recalculation, and by developing family law training and information resources.
The main goals of the program were to make it easier for families to gain access to the family justice system and to encourage compliance with financial support, custody and access obligations. The Supporting Families Fund contributed $15.5 million dollars annually to provincial and territorial governments to develop and provide family justice services and programs aimed at helping parents to reach appropriate custody, access and support agreements and to comply with those agreements. Federal funding also assists non-governmental organization in developing family law information and training resources.
Justice Canada originally committed to funding the program for 5 years, from April 1, 2009 until March 31, 2014. Funding to non-governmental organizations for public legal education and funding to the provinces and territories for family justice services was then extended an additional three years, until March 31, 2017.
Unfortunately, funding for this multi-million dollar program was withdrawn and will not be renewed after March 31, 2017. The justice department’s Report on Plans and Priorities for 2016-17, tabled in March, says the department wants to find the money needed to keep the program going, but since then no further news about the future of the Initiative has been forthcoming.
This is especially disappointing because family law is such a notoriously underfunded rea of the law, particularly when it comes to the needs of families who are from cultural minorities or who live in remote communities. As mentioned in this previous blog post, self-represented litigants in the family law system represent an increasing proportion of family justice system users and they are in need of access to low cost and accurate legal information.
If you have questions about the family justice system in Canada, please contact experienced family lawyer Jason P. Howie, online or at 519.973.1500.