This is the third in a series of posts from the Luke’s Place submission to the review underway by the Parliamentary Assistant to the Attorney General, Lindsey Park, on family and civil legislation, regulations, and processes.
Streamlining the processes to shorten the time to resolution
We fully support the notion of shortening the time it takes for a case to be resolved through the family court process. We offer the following suggestions to this end:
- Ontario should move to a one-family-one-judge case management system for all family law cases, but for cases involving family violence in particular. This will make it more difficult for an abuser to draw out the case unnecessarily and to engage in legal bullying and will make it easier for the judge to witness and identify patterns of ongoing coercive controlling violence.
- Ontario’s Family Court Support Workers (FCSWs), funded by the Ministry of the Attorney General, provide invaluable assistance and support to victims of family violence during their family law case. This assistance includes safety planning, supporting clients collect and organize evidence of abuse, providing clients with information about family court process and helping clients access family court related services such as FLIC, duty counsel and legal aid, all of which can shorten the time to resolution as well as increase the likelihood of the client obtaining an appropriate outcome that is safe for them and their children. This program is overwhelmed by the demand for its services and requires increased financial support from the provincial government.
- Legal bullying is a serious problem in cases involving family violence. In addition to the obvious negative impact on the victim, legal bullying slows down progress of the case. Common legal bullying tactics include:
- Seeking repeated adjournments
- Changing lawyers frequently
- Failing to file complete documents in a timely manner
- Unnecessary self-representation
- Intentional misrepresentation of financial information
- Bringing of repeated frivolous and vexations motions
- Refusing to follow court orders
It is critical that any changes to family court legislation, regulations and processes reflect a commitment to addressing legal bullying quickly and unequivocally.
- Lack of legal representation, for both victims and abusers, significantly slows down family court proceedings. Legal Aid Ontario must be funded adequately to ensure that parties in cases involving coercive controlling violence have lawyers with the necessary training and expertise.