Ontario Family Court Watch: An invitation to organizations

October 1, 2018
Article Source
Luke's Place

Information from Luke's Place: 

The problem

When a woman leaves an abusive relationship, family court outcomes can play a key role in improving the safety and quality of her life and that of her children.

However, the family law system can also increase risk with — as examples — processes that allow abusive individuals to manipulate the system or confront the woman or court decisions that require ongoing contact between the ex-partners.

The potential problems of family court are exacerbated in complex cases that also involve child protection and criminal charges. For example, when an abusive partner is found not guilty of assault in criminal court, family court judges sometimes accept that court's higher requirement for proof and disregard any evidence of abuse in their decision-making. Child protection court may hold the mother responsible for protecting the children from exposure to the abusive partner’s behaviour, an attitude that may also bleed into the family court decisions.

Finding solutions

To inspire change in court processes and decision-making, evidence of the problem as a systemic issue must be collected and best practices identified.

To this end, Luke’s Place has proposed the Ontario Family Court Watch, a province-wide initiative. It will involve an academic partner to guide data collection and the contributions of trained community volunteers. Informed by the expertise of WomanACT, which has led many court watches in Toronto, with outreach supported by the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), the project will monitor complex family court cases that include woman abuse, criminal charges and child protection.

Read more: Ontario Family Court Watch: An invitation to organizations