LSUC to expand scope of family law for paralegals

December 4, 2017
Article Source
Law Times

The Law Society of Upper Canada has approved a plan that will eventually expand the scope of family law to let paralegals offer some services in the area.

Benchers voted Friday morning to create a new licence to train paralegals in certain aspects of family law, including form completion, motions to change and uncontested divorces. The proposal was part of an action plan in response to a report commissioned by the law society and the provincial government that sought ways to provide more access to justice for the large numbers of self-represented litigants in Ontario's family courts.

More than 57 per cent of people in Ontario who engaged with the family court system in 2014-15 were self-represented, according to government statistics.

Bencher Howard Goldblatt, who is chairman of the LSUC's access to justice committee, told Convocation that the expansion and exploration of the role of paralegals in the area is crucial.

"Family law is complex. It has the potential to dramatically impact lives at challenging, testing and difficult times," he said.

"The action plan will help to identify areas and circumstances where people facing complex emotional issues and financial hardship can benefit from a strengthened provincial family law system with increased capacity and resources."

The idea of allowing paralegals to practise in family law has been highly controversial among family lawyers, who have argued that their work is too complex for paralegals. They have also argued that adding them into the marketplace would do little to help the access to justice problems in the family law area.

In the report, Justice Annemarie Bonkalo recommended paralegals should be allowed to represent clients in matters such as simple joint divorces without property, but she drew the line at more complex proceedings. 

Read more: LSUC to expand scope of family law for paralegals