Comment invited on proposed family law reform

On June 9 the Family Justice Reform Working Group released A New Justice System for Families and Children, recommending changes to the family justice system to make it more accessible, effective and oriented to the needs of children and families.

The working group was appointed by the Justice Reform Task Force, which includes representatives from government, the courts and the legal profession.

The working group advocates a move from adversarial to cooperative approaches in the resolution of family law disputes. Among its key recommendations are:

  • the creation of “family justice information hubs” in communities across BC, housed in courthouses if possible, to help families with information, needs assessments and referrals;
  • a unified family court, with adequate resources responsible for all areas of family law, and judges specialized in family law and court procedures;
  • coordination and integration of family law administrative and support services, whether or not a unified family court is attainable;
  • a mandatory dispute resolution session in most cases before clients take a first contested step in a court process;
  • a subsidized first mediation session and use of court fees to help support front-end services;
  • use of costs to promote settlement;
  • additional services for high-conflict families;
  • legal representation for low and middle-income people who are formalizing agreements reached through consensual dispute resolution;
  • Law Society guidance to lawyers on balancing their role as advocate with other interests, including those of children;
  • simpler court rules, less formal hearings and use of online forms.

The Task Force welcomes comments on A New Justice System for Families and Children and any of the report recommendations. You can find the report on the Task Force website at www.bcjusticereview.org.