A Canadian legal aid organisation aims to transform the family law paradigm in Ontario with a major expansion of its surfaces.
Legal Aid Ontario was established in 1998 by the Legal Aid Services Act, legislation which reformed legal aid provision within the province, Canada’s most populous. Independent but publically-funded, the organisation describes itself as having a “statutory mandate to promote access to justice throughout Ontario for low-income individuals”.
New programmes will provide eligible couples with free access to a family lawyer to help with separation agreements and mediation. They will be open to individuals with a maximum income of CA $18,000 (£9,840) per year. Only one party in a couple need qualify for both to receive free services, provided the non-qualifying partner earns no more than CA $50,000 (£27,279) per year.
Participants in the first programme receive up to ten hours with a family lawyer to discuss details of their separation and reach agreement wherever possible. The second programme provides six hours of legal advice for those interested in exploring mediation and it can also be used to draw up a mediation agreement or obtain a court order.
Thomas Kelsey is Legal Aid Ontario’s director of family law services in the Greater Toronto Area. The new programmes are the most significant expansion of legal aid services for more than ten years, he claimed.
“It’s a big step. It’s a whole different avenue that people can now access to resolve their family law problems.”
Photo of London, Ontario by Ryan Stubbs via Wikipedia under a Creative Commons licence