CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS - FAMILY LAW & DIVORCE ACT
Ontario's Attorney General is closely reviewing Bill C-78 (the federal Divorce Act) to determine how it will impact Ontario’s family justice system, and what changes may need to be made in preparation for Bill C-78 coming into force. As such, the Ministry is seeking input from Ontario's lawyers on how Ontario should align with some of the recent amendments made in Bill C-78, such as:
Bill C-78 may be viewed on the Parliament of Canada website at:
You can view FOLA's submission here.
The deadline to file a submission has passed.
ADVICE AND SETTLEMENT COUNSEL PROGRAM
Information for Participating Family Lawyers
The new Advice and Settlement Counsel’s (ASC) program provides family lawyers who can assist self-represented litigants (litigants) on a limited scope services retainer on the day of their family court attendance. These lawyers can provide summary legal advice and in-court assistance. This can include helping litigants to manage their way through the event, providing advice regarding potential settlements, and preparing “to do” lists so that the litigant understands what steps need to be taken next.
The goal of this program is to provide affordable help to self-represented litigants.
The roster of ASC lawyers (all have experience in family law and have completed the mandatory training) is managed by local members of the ASC project committee. If you are a family lawyer and are interested in joining the roster, please contact email@example.com.
CHILD WELFARE REVIEW - MINISTRY OF CHILDREN, COMMUNITY, AND SOCIAL SERVICES
In September, the Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues, Jill Dunlop, announced the launch of an engagement with youth, families, caregivers, frontline workers and child welfare sector leaders to strengthen the child welfare system for children and youth.
FOLA continues to monitor this and will notify members of any amendments.
MAG REVIEW OF FAMILY AND CIVIL LEGISLATION, REGULATIONS, AND PROCESSES
During June and July 2019, Lindsey Park, MPP and Parliamentary Assistant to the Attorney General, led a review of Family and Civil Legislation, Regulations, and Processes. In addition to hosting consultation sessions across the province, the government accepted written submissions.
You can read FOLA's submission here.
And you can read the TLA's Proposals for Family Law Reform here.
FAMILY LAW ACTION PLAN
Since the Family Law Action Plan was approved in December 2017, the Law Society has carried out a significant amount of work in the development of a licensing framework that will permit paralegals and others to assist the public with certain family legal services. The Family Law Working Group—a bencher group established by Convocation—is responsible for overseeing the development of the licence.
The first step in building the licensing framework is the determination of the scope of permissible activities. Consultation has been key to the development of that scope, which is ongoing.
UPDATE - Unified Family Courts
On May 13, 2019, Ontario's Attorney General announced 12 new judicial appointments to support UFC expansion to eight new sites: Belleville, Cayuga, Kitchener, Pembroke, Picton, Simcoe, St. Thomas, and Welland. Unified Family Courts now exist in 25 jurisdictions, which means more than half of the province’s population can now attend one court to resolve all their family law issues.
FAMILY CLAIMS ONLINE SERVICE UPDATE - February 25, 2019 (see below)
Guided Pathways to Family Court Forms
The ministry is also pleased to share that Community Legal Education Ontario’s Guided Pathways to Family Court Forms tool continues to expand.
In addition to helping users complete the forms required to apply for a simple or joint divorce and file a separation agreement with the court, the tool now leads users through many forms required to apply for corollary relief, including custody, access, support, property division, and a restraining order (with or without a divorce claim). To learn more, visit https://www.cleo.on.ca/en/projects/guided-pathways-family-court-forms.
Family Claims Online and Guided Pathways are complementary online services that aim to strengthen the Ontario family justice system by making it more efficient and easier to use.
Ontario's Law Society is implementing the Family Law Action Plan to improve access to justice for Ontario families.
BACKGROUND - BONKALO REPORT
In 2016, Ontario's Attorney General and the Law Society of Ontario Canada asked Justice Annemarie Bonkalo to undertake a consultation to "Expand Legal Service Options for Families". Included in this consultation was a proposal to allow paralegals and other legal service providers, such as law students or law clerks, to deal with certain family matters. The Ministry consultation page can be accessed at this link.
Justice Bonkalo's report was released to the public in February of 2017.
The Ontario Family Law Limited Scope Services Project’s website (funded by a grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario) has been designed to improve access to family justice for middle and lower income Ontarians by increasing the use of limited scope retainers, legal coaching and summary legal counsel in family law matters.
On the above site, you can find resources for family lawyers and other useful information.
Interactive Guided Pathways to Family Court Forms (partnership with CLEO and MAG):
Guide: How to set up a Justice Services Online account (req'd to access the joint divorce online filing service).
(you can read more on our Access to Justice page here.)
On February 25, 2019, the Family Claims Online service was expanded to enable Ontarians to initiate simple divorce applications online at any time. The existing joint divorce online filing process has also been enhanced to permit property claims on consent.
The service will continue to allow users to pay court fees online securely by credit or debit card and enable users to create profiles in order to save filings in progress and view the history of their filings.
This expansion follows the successful province-wide launch of the service in November 2018.