Province Seeking Feedback To Make Family Legal Services More Accessible
Honourable Justice Bonkalo to Lead Family Law Review
Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada are seeking public feedback on a proposal to help families access qualified family legal service providers.
Family law includes divorce and separation, child custody and access, and child support. Currently, only lawyers are permitted to provide legal services in family law cases and this can lead to litigants choosing to represent themselves. In 2014-15, over 57 per cent of Ontarians did not have legal representation in family court.
As part of Ontario's work to improve access to justice for families, the Honourable Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo will lead a review to consider whether a broader range of legal services providers, such as paralegals, law clerks and students, should be allowed to handle certain family law matters. Justice Bonkalo will also ask for input on what types of legal services, if handled by a broader range of legal service providers, could improve the family law system and how alternative service providers could be held accountable.
The public is invited to provide comments on the consultation document by April 30, 2016.
Finding more innovative, accessible and affordable ways to deliver quality justice services is part of the government's plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in people's talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in the province's history, creating a dynamic, supportive environment where business thrives and building a secure retirement savings plan.
- Justice Bonkalo will submit her recommendations to the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada by September 15, 2016.
- Justice Bonkalo is a part-time judge and the former chief justice of the Ontario Court of Justice. Justice Bonkalo retired in May 2015 after holding the post for eight years.
- The Law Society of Upper Canada regulates Ontario lawyers and paralegals in the public interest. It is a function of the Society to ensure that all persons who practice law or provide legal services in Ontario meet professional standards of learning, competence and conduct.
- Promoting fairness and access to justice is a key priority in the Attorney General’s mandate letter from the Premier.
“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.”
“Justice Bonkalo’s wealth of experience and expertise in family law matters before the busiest court in Canada will be an immense asset. The Law Society is pleased to work with the Government of Ontario on this important consultation, which will provide valuable perspectives from the public and valued stakeholders across the province.”
“As former Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Justice, I am a strong advocate of court modernization. I am proud to work with the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada to improve access to family legal services in Ontario and look forward to presenting the results of this review to the Attorney General and the Law Society.”
Honourable Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo