In an interview last month with the CBC, Chief Justice and Chairman of Access Justice B.C., Robert Bauman, decried the lack of accessibility to the family justice system for the average middle-class Canadian citizen. Justice Bauman's concerns come amid outcries for reinstatement of the Federal Government funding for its seven-year-old project to help Canadian couples in conflict, which ended on March 31 of this year.
Cognizant of the difficulty facing married and common-law couples on the verge of separation or after separation, the Canadian government launched their Supporting Families Experiencing Separation And Divorce Initiative in 2009. For years, the program provided resources for wide-ranging projects, including public access to legal information and support. But since its discontinuation, the initiative's future remains a mystery.
The conundrum facing Canadian families is that many find themselves in an income bracket that means they are not eligibile for Legal Aid. With financial resources often strained to the limit, some families resort to representing themselves in court. But with scant legal knowledge and even less familiarity navigating the court system, many such couples risk a less than optimal result and outcome for their family.
According to Justice Bauman, the current legal system is "too complex, too slow and too expensive." His reform group views family justice as Canada's first priority. Their vision includes a simplified, financially-accessible legal system centred on the needs of its actual users.
How and when reforms may impact the average Canadian family remains to be seen. But at present, the news underscores the continuing need that couples have for legal help in order to navigate separation and divorce. Couples may also benefit from exploring cost-effective and time-effective alternatives to court, such as collaborative divorce or mediation.
Contact the Family Dispute Resolution Professionals at Peterson Stark Scott to canvass cost effective options to help resolve your family law matters.