How to assess online legal information

If you are a service provider sharing legal information with women or a woman looking for legal information about your family law issue, you might refer to online resources. While there are some excellent legal information resources available online, not all are reliable.

Here are some tips for assessing legal information:

  • What jurisdiction does the legal information refer to? You should make sure it is specific to or at least includes Ontario, because most family law in Canada is provincial. It is very easy to get lost on the internet, clicking from one resource to another, and not realize you have moved to an American website or a website from another province, in which case the legal information, while accurate, may not be relevant in Ontario.
  • What is the organization that has produced the material? Is it a not-for-profit or is it a lawyer looking to drum up business?
  • Who has produced the material? If it is legal information, has a lawyer been involved? Can you get some information about the lawyer’s background and expertise?
  • Can you easily find contact information for the individual or organization that has produced the material?
  • Has this organization or individual produced other resources on related topics?
  • How current is the information? You should be able to find a date on the website.

One excellent source for reliable, current, Ontario-specific legal information on a variety of topics is Your Legal Rights (www.yourlegalrights.on.ca), which is provided by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO). CLEO is a community legal clinic and part of Ontario’s legal aid system.

When posting information on its site, Your Legal Rights:

  • Draws on the expertise of its staff team and advisory group as well as on the legal and editorial staff at CLEO
  • Ensures the information is current
  • Includes information about major changes to the law
  • Includes contact information about the organization that has produced the information being posted
  • Reviews and, where appropriate, archives resources
  • Contacts organizations every 2 years asking them to review and update any of their resources that are posted on Your Legal Rights
  • Posts only legal information that is relevant or applies to people in Ontario
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