Common-sense guidelines for family law lawyers

May 1, 2013

It’s no surprise that the largest number of complaints the Law Society receives relates to family law matters. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing a lawyer can do about it.

The Law Society’s Family Law Task Force, with the assistance of a working group of the Canadian Bar Association, has developed a list of nine guidelines for family law lawyers. The guidelines reflect the emotional and contentious nature of family law proceedings and encourage lawyers to conduct themselves in a manner that is professional and respectful.

Best practice guidelines for lawyers practising family law

Lawyers involved in a family law dispute should strive to ensure it is conducted in the following manner:

1. Lawyers should be constructive, respectful and seek to minimize conflict and should encourage clients to do likewise.*

2. Lawyers should strive to remain objective at all times, and not to over-identify with clients or be unduly influenced by the emotions of the moment.

3. Lawyers should avoid using inflammatory language in spoken or written communications, and should encourage clients to do likewise.

4. Lawyers should caution clients about the limited relevance of allegations or evidence of conduct.

5. Lawyers should avoid actions that have the sole or predominant purpose of hindering, delaying or bullying an opposing party, and should encourage clients to do likewise.

6. Lawyers cannot participate in, and should caution clients against, any actions that are dishonest, misleading or undertaken for an improper purpose.

7. Lawyers should keep clients advised of, and encourage clients to consider, at all stages of the dispute:

(a) the risks and costs of any proposed actions or communications;

(b) both short and long term consequences;

(c) the consequences for any children involved; and

(d) the importance of court orders or agreements.

8. Lawyers should advise clients that clients are in a position of trust in relation to their children, and that:

(a) it is important for clients to put their children’s interests before their own; and

(b) failing to do so may have a significant impact on both the children’s well-being and the client’s case.

9. At all stages of the dispute, lawyers should advise and encourage their clients to consider  all available and suitable resources for resolving the dispute, in or out of court.

* Lawyers are not obliged to assist persons who are being disrespectful or abusive. 

Download the Report of the Family Law Task Force: Best Practice Guidelines for Lawyers Practising Family Law (PDF)