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.

Making A2J Matter to the Public

The Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters launched the #justiceforall campaign designed to raise public understanding of accessible justice challenges as a component of a healthy democracy.

A next step in transforming the A2J landscape is to engage the public by raising awareness of the importance of justice issues in Canada.  Building a public understanding of the importance of legal health and the predictability of legal issues throughout one’s life will benefit individuals and will transform the access to justice conversation into an issue relevant to citizens, decision makers, and voters. As long as access to justice challenges are only understood within the justice system, the possible solutions will be limited to the scope of influence, resources and imagination of the justice system.

The Action Committee is asking the A2J leaders in Canada, to help raise the profile of A2J efforts. If you are a leader in A2J, a bencher, a legal academic, a judge or a lawyer with a personal following, we would also welcome your participation in collectively raising this issue. To participate in the social media campaign or add a button on your website, there are links, instructions and graphics available at: www.calibratesolutions.ca/actioncommitteecampaign

Starting a public conversation about access to justice will shift the perception of the issue to a holistic understanding of the law as a part of daily life that can be understood and managed throughout one’s life, often with the help of legal professionals.

This post also appears online here.

Intéresse le public de A2J

Le Comité d’action sur l’accès à la justice en matière civile et familiale a commencé la campagne #justicepourtous vise à faire réaliser au public que l’accès à la justice est, en fait, l’accès aux solutions de leurs problèmes juridiques de tous les jours et un élément d’une saine démocratie.

L’étape suivante dans la transformation du paysage de l’accès à la justice est de mobiliser le public en sensibilisant les gens à l’importance des questions de justice au Canada. Sensibiliser le public à l’importance de la santé juridique et à la prévisibilité des problèmes juridiques au cours de leur vie profitera aux individus et permettra de transformer les discussions sur l’accès à la justice en une question concrète et pertinente pour les citoyens, les décideurs et les électeurs. Tant et aussi longtemps que les défis en matière d’accès à la justice sont seulement compris par le système de justice, les solutions possibles seront limitées au champ d’action, aux ressources et à l’imagination du système de justice.

Le Comité d’Action vous demande, comme un des A2J leaders au Canada, nous aider à faire connaître nos A2J efforts parmi le public. Si vous êtes un leader, un conseiller, un juge ou un avocat avec un personnel suivant, nous accueillerions aussi votre participation soulevant collectivement à cette question. À participer à la campagne de medias sociale ou mettre un bouton sur votre site nous avons des liens et le graphisme sont tout disponibles à: www.calibratesolutions.ca/actioncommitteecampaign

Lancer un dialogue public sur l’accès à la justice changera la perception du problème et amènera une compréhension plus globale de la loi comme étant un élément de la vie quotidienne qui peut être compris et géré tout au long de la vie d’une personne, souvent avec l’aide de professionnels de la justice.

Cet article a été publié pour la première fois ici.

 

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.

Canadian Access to Justice Initiatives: Justice Development Goals Status Report / Initiatives canadiennes d’accès à la justice Rapport d’étape annuel sur la réalisation des objectifs de développement de la justice and Working Data Document

The Action Committee’s “Canadian Access to Justice Initiatives: Justice Development Goals Status Report” has been published and is available in both English and French on the Action Committee webpage. This Report uses the nine Justice Development Goals set out in the Action Committee’s “A Roadmap for Change” report as a framework to explore current initiatives and to identify areas for future work in access to justice in Canada. The Justice Development Goals Status Report was produced by the Canadian Forum on Civil Justice.

In addition, the Forum has also published the “Status Report: Working Data Document”, which includes data from the “Canadian Access to Justice Initiatives: Justice Development Goals Status Report”, as well as raw data from the recent Justice Development Goals Survey that is not discussed in the Report.

Access to Justice for Children – Child Rights in Action Conference

The Access to Justice for Children – Child Rights in Action Conference will be held in Vancouver on May 11-12, 2017. It is an innovative, multi-disciplinary Conference (an international award winner in 2015) that will share the latest law, knowledge and practice tips to help better support children affected by justice and administrative decision-making.  Here are a few reasons to attend this Conference:

  1. Young people are integral to this Conference and rarely do we hear their perspectives to inform our work
  2. You will be the first to be introduced to the Canadian Bar Association’s Child Rights Toolkit, an online resource developed by various legal professionals from across Canada that will be brought to life at the Conference – you can use this long into the future – and better understand key themes that cross cut all areas of the justice system in your practice such as:
    • Cultural Competency and what this means for all of us arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Recommendations;
    • Children living free from all forms of violence; and
    • Child participation essentials from the perspectives of psychology, social work, and law enforcement as well as child and family serving agencies.
  1. This Conference counts towards your professional education credits whether you are a lawyer, mediator, Hear the Child Roster member, social worker, or other relevant professionals.

You can attend either in person or via webinar. To learn more about this conference, or to register, visit the conference webpage here: http://www.cle.bc.ca/1387/special-invitation/

 

Information about this Conference was provided by the Conference’s co-chair.

Children’s Participation in Justice Processes: Finding the Best Ways Forward

Children’s Participation in Justice Processes: Finding the Best Ways Forward is a two-day national symposium scheduled for 15 and 16 September 2017 in Calgary.

Finding the Best Ways Forward aims to bring together a broad, multidisciplinary group of stakeholders to share information and to converse about how children’s voices are heard, how their interests are protected and how their evidence is received in justice processes. The symposium is intended to generate innovative proposals for policy reform, best practices, and recommendations for future research about children’s participation in justice processes. Subjects to be discussed at the symposium will include:
  • the role of children’s counsel;
  • the child in family law proceedings, child protection proceedings and youth criminal justice proceedings;
  • the practical and legal effect of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child within Canada; and,
  • best practices for children’s legal clinics, representing children, judicial child interviews, and child interviews by lawyers and mental health professionals.

The symposium is open to anyone with an interest in children’s participation in justice processes. Participation is welcome from: judges, lawyers and articled students; academics, researchers, graduate students and post-doctoral students; social workers, clinical psychologists, counsellors and other mental health professionals; and, government decision-makers, policy-makers and administrators. For more information, please visit: http://www.findingthebestwaysforward.com/.

The symposium’s call for papers closed on 7 April 2017.  Registration is open for this important symposium, and a block of rooms has been set aside at the downtown Hyatt.
Additional information about the symposium, and the pre-symposium conference on family law in Canada, can be found here: http://www.findingthebestwaysforward.com/about_the_symposium.htm

The symposium registration portal can be found here: http://www.findingthebestwaysforward.com/registration.htm

Early bird pricing is available until 3 June 2017.

Finding the Best Ways Forward is a joint initiative by the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family and the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Alberta, and has been funded by a grant from the Alberta Law Foundation.

Information about “Finding the Best Ways Forward” was provided by  the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family.

 

This post was updated on March 28, 2017

Professional Development series on Access to Justice

The Canadian Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee has developed a new professional development webinar series called, Better Client Service Series: Good for Clients, Good for Lawyers.

Three live 90-minute webinars are currently scheduled to take place as a part of this series. The themes are as follows:

  •  (March 7, 2017) Lasting Client Relationships: Intake Strategies that Build Long-Term Trust: Using client intake procedures to identify long-term needs and build client capacity;
  • (March 29, 2017) Made-to-Measure Legal Services: The Power of Limited Scope Retainers: Understanding the practical application of limited scope retainers and the associated professional responsibilities;
  •  (April 19, 2017) Intelligent Client Communications: Empowering Your Clients Through Clear Legal Writing: Drafting correspondence that optimizes clients’ understanding of their legal issues and helps them make effective decisions.

These webinars will be led by faculty who are well known in the access to justice arena.  More information about the webinar series can be found at the following link:  http://www.cbapd.org/details_en.aspx?id=NA_ona2j17.  Information about accreditation of the sessions for inclusion in continuing professional development hours is located here: http://www.cbapd.org/accreditation_en.aspx?id=NA_ONA2J17

Non-CBA members who work in Access to Justice are eligible for pricing discounts. Follow the links above for contact information and to learn more about this series.