Toolkit on Co-Parenting after Divorce or Separation now Available from CBA

The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) Family Law Section in conjunction with the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) have announced that the Successfully Parenting Apart: A Toolkit is now available.

About the new Successfully Parenting Apart toolkit, the CBA explains that it:

  • organizes and consolidates online and print resources offering guidance, information, referrals and resources for resolving parenting challenges post-separation in ways most effective for children.
  • is intended to increase family lawyers’ awareness of the best available information to better assist parents in transforming their relationship from being a couple to being successful co-parents.

To learn more about the toolkit or to download a copy of the Successfully Parenting Apart toolkit, visit the CBA website here.

BC Provincial Court Creates Support Persons Guidelines Poster and Flyer

The Provincial Court of British Columbia has created several resources aimed at informing self-represented litigants about the possibility to be accompanied by a support person for family and small claims trials.

Information about these newly available flyers and posters as well as downloadable copies can be accessed on the Provincial Court of BC website here. The Provincial Court encourages you to share the Support Person Guidelines poster and other resources.

Upcoming A2J-Related Events

SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGANTS (SRL) AWARENESS DAY: (October 4th 2017) at Windsor Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, the University of Ottawa Law School, Queens Law School, and Western Law

  • SRL Awareness Day aims to increase awareness among law students of the self-represented litigant experience. Windsor Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, the University of Ottawa Law School, Queens Law School, and Western Law will host invited SRL guests in classes and during a midday panel.

For more information about SRL Awareness Day, visit the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) website here. Join the conversation taking place on social media for Self-Represented Litigants Awareness Day with #SRLawareness and #SRLawarenessday.


LEGAL INNOVATION ZONE: YOUTH ACCESS TO JUSTICE INITIATIVE at Ryerson University

  • Session 2A (youth only): October 4 at Ryerson University
    This event will focus on access to justice within the community and how to address access to justice issues.
  • Session 2B: October 25 at Ryerson University
    This event is open to all ages. Discussions will center on community access to justice issues and how those in the community can get help for their issues.
  • Session 3: October 30 at Ryerson University
    This session will explore where justice system users go for legal help and how existing resources can be made to work better.
  • Session 4 (Design Thinking): November 4 at Ryerson University
    Using themes explored in earlier sessions, this session will lead participants through the Design Thinking process to create prototypes for youth justice initiatives.

For more information on the Legal Innovation Zone Youth Access to Justice Initiative, visit their website here.


SASKATCHEWAN ACCESS TO JUSTICE WEEK (October 16 to 21) at the University of Saskatchewan, College of Law

  • This is the 2nd annual Saskatchewan Access to Justice week. This event seeks to engage individuals and stakeholders in access to justice discussions and to bring to the forefront various initiatives that are contributing to improvements in A2J for Saskatchewan residents.

For more information on Saskatchewan Access to Justice Week, visit their website here. Follow the week’s events and conversations on social media using #SKA2J.


ONTARIO ACCESS TO JUSTICE WEEK (October 23 to 27)

This is Ontario’s second annual Access to Justice Week. This year’s Access to Justice Week will include the following events:

  • Access to Justice Innovation (October 23) at the Law Society of Upper Canada
    This event will highlight innovative, community driven work taking place in the justice sector. The keynote presentation will be delivered by Justice Thomas A. Cromwell.
  • Improving Health, Improving Service (October 23) at the Law Society of Upper Canada
    This event will focus on mental health and other health risks that lawyers face.
  • The Millennial Influence (October 24) at the University of Ottawa
    This event will include discussions on the ways that millenials are influencing thinking on A2J and legal technology.
  • Paralegals and Access to Justice (October 25) at the Law Society of Upper Canada
    This session will centre on the contributions that paralegals are making to improving A2J.
  • Include. Inform. Inspire. (October 26) at the Law Society of Upper Canada
    This will be a public legal education and information forum.

For more information on Ontario’s Access to Justice Week, visit The Action Group on Access to Justice website here. Follow the week’s events and conversations on social media using #A2J2017.


2017 IT.CAN 21st  ANNUAL CONFERENCE (October 23 to 24) at 150 King Street West, Toronto

  • This 2-day conference will offer legal professionals and others an opportunity to network and learn about developments in technology law in Canada and abroad.

For more information about the IT.CAN Conference, visit the program page here.


ABA 2017 NATIONAL AGING AND LAW CONFERENCE (October 26 to 27) Silver Spring, Maryland

  • This 2-day conference will include an array of workshops on legal and policy issues, legal service delivery and recent developments related to elder rights, aging and law.

For additional information on the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2017 National Aging and Law conference visit their website here.


2017 FAMILY DISPUTE RESOLUTION INSTITUTE OF ONTARIO (FDRIO) AND FAMILY MEDIATION CANADA (FMC) CONFERENCE (November 20 to 21) in Toronto, Ontario

The 2-day 2017 FDRIO-FMC Conference will include panels and workshops on a range of topics including:

  • How to Fix the Family Court Crisis
  • Getting Past Impasse
  • Distance Mediation and Technology
  • Effective Advocacy in Mediation
  • Elder Mediation
  • Parenting Coordination Challenges
  • Grandparent Access Mediation
  • Domestic Violence and Power Imbalance
  • Income Determination for Support Purposes
  • Ethical Issues in Mediation/Arbitration

For more information or to register for the FDRIO-FMC conference, visit the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario website here.  Follow the conversation on social media with #FDRevolution.


SELF-REPRESENTED LITIGATION NETWORK (SRLN) 2018 CONFERENCE (February 22 to 23, 2018), San Francisco, California

  • The 2nd annual Self-Represented Litigation Network Conference will bring together a diverse group of players and users in the justice system to explore and create new tools for providing access to justice. Proposals for this conference will be accepted up to September 29.

For more information about Designing & Engaging the 100% Access to Civil Justice Ecosystem, the 2-day SRLN conference, visit their website here.

The Practice of Family Law in Canada: Results from a Survey of Participants at the 2016 National Family Law Program

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) has published a new research paper based on findings from a survey of more than 200 lawyers and judges who attended the 2016 National Family Law Program. The National Family Law Program is a high-profile, 4-day biennial conference organized by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, that addresses current issues in the practice of family law in Canada. Topics addressed in the study include participants’ views of and experiences with: court-attached family justice programs; hearing the views of children; issues in custody and access disputes; issues in disputes about child support and spousal support; family violence; unified family courts; and, limited scope legal services in family law disputes.

The research paper was written by Lorne Bertrand, Jo Paetsch, John-Paul Boyd and Nick Bala and the study was funded by the Department of Justice and the Alberta Law Foundation.

The English version of the paper is available on the CRILF website here; the French version is available on the CRILF website here.

Polyamorous Relationships and Family Law in Canada

As our collective understanding of what constitutes “family” continues to change and evolve, the legislation governing the formation and dissolution of family relationships may appear to be lingering behind. In a new paper prepared for the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF), John-Paul E. Boyd explores both the legal components and general public perceptions surrounding polyamorous relationships in Canada. Boyd begins the paper by citing the preliminary findings from the CRILF’s 2016 study on Canadian perceptions of polyamory. After breaking down the data, Boyd moves on to discuss the legal dimensions of polyamorous relationships in the context of the various provincial family law schemes.

Finally, Boyd concludes the paper by posing some questions for members of the family bar to consider when thinking about polyamorous relationships and how they may affect a range of issues, such as:

  • a) Immigration: Can a married spouse sponsor someone coming into Canada to join his or her relationship?
    b) Public employment benefits: Can CPP benefits and employee health benefits be shared with more than 1 other person?
  • c) Wills and estates: To what extent does legislation accommodate concurrent surviving spouses? To what extent can children born from a ménage inherit from non-biological parents who die intestate?
  • d) Adoption and assisted reproduction: How many adults can be legal parents of a child?
  • e) Vital statistics: Can vital statistics agencies be compelled to register more adults as the parents of a child than the biological or adoptive parents of child?; and
  • f) Education and health care: To what extent can education and health care providers be compelled to take instructions from the members of a ménage other than child’s biological parents?

For a more fulsome discussion of the legal dimensions of polyamorous relationships and to see the preliminary results of the 2016 survey, take a look at the report.

Parenting Assessments and Their Use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario

“Parenting Assessments and Their Use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario” is a recently published paper based on reviews of practice and procedure in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, and examines:

  • the extent to which these assessments are used and relied upon in courtroom decision-making;
  • and, whether there is a relationship between the cost of private assessments and the frequency of their use in these jurisdictions.

The report concludes with recommendations for further research to explore: the qualitative difference between assessments conducted by psychologists and psychiatrists compared to social workers and their impact on the settlement of family law disputes; the utility and feasibility of establishing standard guidelines or best practices for parenting assessments; and, options for shielding assessors from the damaging impact of unmeritorious complaints.

“Parenting Assessments and Their Use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario” was prepared by the the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) under the leadership of Zoe Suche, LL.B. and John-Paul E. Boyd, M.A., LL. B. The paper is available on the CRILF website.

The details in this post was taken from information circulated by CRILF.

Analysis of Data from the Federal Justice Divorce File Review Study: Report on Findings for Alberta, 2011

This latest report from the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) looks at data collected from the Calgary registry of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench by the federal Department of Justice in 2011. The Report is authored by Sibyl Kleiner, Lorne Bertrand, Joanne Paetsch and John-Paul E. Boyd.

Highlights from the Report include:
  • Two-thirds of divorce claims were initiated by women, and three-quarters of plaintiffs were either represented by or had the assistance of a lawyer at some point in the case. Just under one-half of defendants had legal representation at some point in the case.
  • Almost 15% of the court files reviewed included a reference to family violence somewhere in the file.
  • Mental or physical cruelty was given as a reason for marriage breakdown in only 2.7% of files. Separation for not less than one year was given as a reason for marriage breakdown in 98.6% of cases.
  • On average, spouses had been separated for approximately 2.5 years before the start of proceedings in the Court of Queen’s Bench. The least amount of time passing between these dates was zero years, and the most time passing was 16.4 years.
  • The average length of time from the start of proceedings to the making of the final divorce order was 1.3 years. The least amount of time passing between these dates was 0.1 years, and the most time passing was 6.4 years.
  • Interim orders were more likely to be made in cases mentioning family violence (27%) than in cases where there was no mention of violence (3%).
  • In cases mentioning family violence, a larger proportion of plaintiffs were women than in cases where there was no mention of family violence. Plaintiffs and defendants were also, on average, younger in cases involving family violence.
  • In just over two-thirds of the first orders made in the files reviewed, mothers and stepmothers had the primary residence of the eldest child. Fathers and stepfathers had the primary residence of the eldest child in 10.6% of initial orders, and the primary residence of the eldest child was shared in 14.2% of initial orders.
  • In 30.8% of the first orders made in the files reviewed, mothers and stepmothers had the sole responsibility for decision-making in respect of the eldest child. Fathers and stepfathers had sole responsibility for decision-making for the eldest child in 6.9% of initial orders, and responsibility for decision-making for the eldest child was shared in 62.3% of initial orders.
  • Orders on parenting arrangements were made more frequently in cases mentioning family violence (42.6% of cases included two or more orders on parenting arrangements) than in cases not mentioning violence (9.4% of cases included two or more such orders).

Recommendations in this Report encourage the provincial and federal governments to do more work with the data already collected and to undertake a new round of data collection using the materials prepared for 2011.

CRILF acknowledges the ongoing financial support of the Alberta Law Foundation, without which this Report could not have been completed. The complete Report is available on the CRILF website.

Details in this post were taken from information circulated by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family.

Summary Legal Advice Services in Alberta: Year 1 Results from the Community Legal Clinic Surveys and the Alberta Limited Legal Services Project – New Research from the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family (CRILF) has published a new report entitled, Summary Legal Advice Services in Alberta: Year 1 Results from the Community Legal Clinic Surveys.

This report, which was prepared for the Alberta Law Foundation by Institute researchers, Joanne Paetsch and Lorne Betrand, examines the results of initial and follow-up surveys of 3,300 clients receiving services from legal clinics operated by Calgary Legal Guidance, Edmonton Community Legal Centre, Central Alberta Community Legal Clinic and Lethbridge Legal Guidance after one year of data collection, and has important implications for legal clinics across Canada.

Highlights from the study’s findings include:
  • The vast majority of clients reported that a 30-minute meeting with lawyer was sufficient to talk about their legal problem.
  • The most frequently discussed legals problems related to family law, landlord-tenant disputes and immigration.
  • Family law problems were more likely to be issues for clients who had completed some university or college than clients who had completed high school or less.
  • The vast majority of clients strongly agreed or agreed that they had a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities after their meeting at the clinic.
  • In the follow-up survey, clients who received a written summary of the advice they received were significantly more likely to strongly agree or agree that they had a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities after their meeting at the clinic.

Summary Legal Advice Services in Alberta: Year 1 Results from the Community Legal Clinic Surveys is available on the CRILF website.

 


On 18 April 2017, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family formally launched The Alberta Limited Legal Services Project. The primary goals of the project are to determine whether limited scope legal services, also known as limited scope retainers and unbundled legal services, improve people’s ability to access justice, and to assess clients’ and lawyers’ satisfaction with limited scope legal services. Secondary goals include encouraging lawyers to provide these services as a component of their existing service offerings, improving public awareness of these services as an alternative to the traditional start-to-finish retainer, and creating a pool of lawyers trained and willing to provide limited scope services.

The project presently involves about 50 lawyers, with offices located throughout Alberta, practicing in almost every area of law. CRILF has focussed on family law, being the area of greatest need, and 40 roster lawyers provide service in this area. We will be surveying lawyers and clients alight through the data-collection phase of the project, which will wrap up in September 2018. The project is funded by a grant from the Law Foundation of Ontario.

The project website can be found at http://albertalegalservices.com/index.html and features: a list of roster lawyers, sorted by name, by area of practice and by location of practice; information for clients; and, practice resources for lawyers, including a model retainer agreement, best practices, a training video and frequently asked questions. Project materials are available at no charge to anyone interesting in replicating or repurposing the project elsewhere.

Details in this post were taken from information circulated by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family.

An International Review of Early Neutral Evaluation Programs and their use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta

The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family has just released a report entitled: “An International Review of Early Neutral Evaluation Programs and their Use in Family Law Disputes in Alberta.”

Generally speaking, early neutral evaluation programs are court-based programs that require the parties to a dispute to attend a neutral third party evaluator early on the life of a lawsuit. At these hearings, the parties present their positions in the case and receive the feedback of the evaluator on the merits of those positions and the likely result of the lawsuit if it went to trial. The evaluator may assist the parties in settling all or some of the issues in dispute. However even when a full settlement is not reached, the hearing provides a useful reality check for litigants, helps to clarify the issues in dispute and prepares the parties for future judicial and extrajudicial dispute resolution processes.

Research conducted by The Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family shows that these hearings result in high satisfaction rates for litigants, lawyers and evaluators. They promote settlement and the taking of positions supported by the law, and save litigants time, money and emotional stress as a result. They also provide savings to the justice system by reducing the number of contested applications and reducing the number and length of trials.

Based on these findings, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family proposes that a working group be established to explore the implementation of a pilot early neutral evaluation project in Alberta. The Institute makes a variety of recommendations on the optimum characteristics of such a pilot project, drawn from their research, and on the issues the working group must address in its deliberations. In their view, the proposed pilot project aligns well with the objectives and guiding principles of the Reforming the Family Justice System Initiative presently exploring means of improving the family justice system in Alberta, and may be ideally suited for adoption and evaluation as a prototype by the Initiative.
The authors of the report are Joanne Paetsch (paetsch@ucalgary.ca) and John-Paul Boyd (jp.boyd@ucalgary.ca). Please address any comments, questions or concerns you may have to them.

In addition, this report pairs nicely with the conclusions reached in the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family’s 2014 report, “Self-Represented Litigants in Family Law Disputes: Contrasting the Views of Alberta Family Law Lawyers and Judges of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench” by John-Paul Boyd and Lorne Bertrand. This earlier report concludes that self-represented litigants tend to take unreasonable positions in family law disputes which ultimately reduce the likelihood that these disputes will resolve without a trial. When cases involving self-represented litigants do reach trial, they tend to require more adjournments and take longer to resolve as a result of self-represented litigants’ unfamiliarity with the rules of court, the rules of evidence and the law that applies to their cases, and the results self-represented litigants achieve tend to be worse than the results they would have achieved had they had counsel. An early neutral evaluation program which includes an objective appraisal of the strengths and weaknesses of the parties’ positions would likely be of great assistance to these litigants.

For more information about the other projects the Institute is engaged in or developing, please visit www.crilf.ca/current_projects.htm.

Comparing the Views of Judges and Lawyers Practicing in Alberta and in the Rest of Canada on Selected Issues in Family Law: Parenting, Self-represented Litigants and Mediation

Comparing the Views of Judges and Lawyers Practicing in Alberta and in the Rest of Canada on Selected Issues in Family Law: Parenting, Self-represented Litigants and Mediation draws on the findings of a survey, conducted by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family, Professor Nick Bala and Dr. Rachel Birnbaum, of the participants at the 2014 National Family Law Program in Whistler, British Columbia, and compares the views of Alberta respondents with those from the rest of Canada on a number of issues, including parenting after separation, self-represented litigants, access to justice and mediation.

The report notes some striking differences between the views and experiences of Alberta practitioners and those from elsewhere in Canada. Among other things, Alberta practitioners are more likely to: have cases resulting in shared custody or shared parenting; support the amendment of the Divorce Act to use terms such as parenting responsibilities and parenting time; have cases involving self-represented litigants; support mandatory information programs for self-represented litigants; and, support the use of paralegals to improve access to justice for self-represented litigants. Recommendations are made on subjects including: the amendment of the Divorce Act; the use of unbundled legal services to promote access to justice; the use of mandatory mediation where at least one party is self-represented; the provision of limited legal services in family law matters by paralegals; and, the use of standardized questionnaires by lawyers screening for domestic violence.

Comparing the Views of Judges and Lawyers Practicing in Alberta and in the Rest of Canada on Selected Issues in Family Law: Parenting, Self-represented Litigants and Mediation was written by Dr. Lorne Bertrand and John-Paul E. Boyd and can accessed through the Institute’s website here.