FROM ADVOCATE DAILY: Bonkalo report focuses too much on paralegals, not on other solutions

Bonkalo recommendations fail to address larger issues

From AdvocateDaily this week:

The Family Legal Services Review focuses too much on the expanded use of paralegals without considering other potential fixes to the system, says Ottawa family lawyer Timothy N. Sullivan.

Sullivan, principal of SullivanLaw, says the report by former Ontario chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo is problematic because it proposes paralegals take on some responsibilities of family law and not others. But the larger issue, he says, is there are potential solutions not addressed by the report.

In her report to Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General, Bonkalo suggested a specialized licence for paralegals to provide specific family legal services without the supervision of lawyers. She recommended those services include custody and access issues, simple child support cases, restraining orders and straightforward divorce matters that don’t involve property issues.

“The recommendations fall within the report’s terms of reference, but they are probably deficient in accomplishing the task of having more people represented in court,” Sullivan tells AdvocateDaily.com. “The focus was how to get paralegals into the family law system.”

There have been long-standing concerns in family law about the rise of self-represented litigants — estimated at 57 per cent in 2014-15 — resulting in reduced access to justice for members of the public. But people wading into the often foreign territory of a courtroom without the guidance of a lawyer are also blamed for bogging down an already taxed system.

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