Family law review launched

Posted: 02/09/2016

Public consultationA recently launched review will seek public feedback on a proposed approach to make family legal services more accessible.

Starting today, a review led by the Honourable Justice Annemarie E. Bonkalo will 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.

“Navigating the family law system without the help of a qualified legal professional can be a daunting task,” said Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General and Minister of Francophone Affairs, “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.”

As part of her review, Justice Bonkalo will also ask for input on what types of legal services could improve the family law system and how alternative service providers could be held accountable.

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.

“I am a strong advocate of court modernization,” said Justice Bonkalo. “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.”

Family law includes divorce and separation, child custody and access, and child support. By law, only lawyers are permitted to provide family legal services.

In 2014/15, over 57 per cent of people did not have legal representation in family court.

Law Society Treasurer Janet E. Minor applauded the review and welcomed Justice Bonkalo’s expertise.

“Justice Bonkalo’s wealth of experience and expertise in family law matters before the busiest court in Canada will be an immense asset,” Treasurer Minor said.

“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.”

To participate in the consultation, read the consultation document and provide comments by April 30, 2016.

Justice Bonkalo will submit her recommendations to the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada by September 15, 2016.