Report says access to civil and family law courts is too limited and complicated.
The report, released in October, describes access to justice in Canada as being profoundly unequal, especially in civil and family law courts. The problem is particularly acute in family law cases where issues such as child custody and support are sometimes unfairly decided because people do not have access to legal representation.
Another Toronto Star article on the report described a growing number of people who make too much money to qualify for legal aid, yet often feel as though they cannot afford a lawyer themselves. As a result, many of these people are choosing to represent themselves in court.
People that choose to defend themselves often find the process stressful and time-consuming, which in turn can lead to deterioration in relationships and even job terminations. As a result, in a child custody case, for example, the effects of that stress could have a negative bearing on the ultimate decision of the court. Furthermore, when both parties choose to represent themselves in court then the case usually takes about 10 days versus three days if each side had a lawyer. That extra time is putting undue stress on the current legal system.
The first recommendation that is likely to be implemented is quick access to legal information. In many cases, people have trouble navigating through the legal system and finding the information they need to resolve their problems quickly. In many cases, a lack of information results in the justice system getting overburdened by cases that are not necessarily legal problems.
Supreme Court of Canada Justice Thomas Cromwell, for example, says that a person who gets cut off from worker’s compensation and then cannot pay child support would be better served by knowing early on whether such a case can be resolved through the justice system.
The Law Society of Upper Canada is already working on creating a forum that will better encourage coordination across the justice system and provide better access to information for individuals.
As the above case shows, legal representation is highly important in family law matters. Without trained legal counsel, parents and spouses can find the justice system overwhelming and could even have a case decided against them because they are unaware of how certain legal matters work. The best way to ensure that a person’s family law case is considered fairly is to consult with an experienced family law lawyer who will be able to put his expertise to work in order to achieve an agreeable outcome for the client.