The Law Society of BC (LSBC) reviewed a report of their Access to Justice Advisory Committee in the fall of 2021 which looked into ways to improve access to justice in family law disputes. CBABC prepared a written submission with recommendations and further considerations for both LSBC and the BC Government as improvements are made to alleviate challenges for those needing to resolve family law matters.
CBABC advocates for improved access to justice for families in its Agenda for Justice 2021. The LSBC committee report indicated a desire to consult with justice system stakeholders, including CBABC, to find ways to improve the family law system and increase access to justice, having found children from families in crisis suffer from Adverse Childhood Experiences. CBABC agrees that changes are needed to alleviate challenges currently faced by those attempting to resolve family disputes.
CBABC also agrees that Adverse Childhood Experiences, or “ACE” are a serious concern in family law disputes, and that the system could use improvements. However, moving to a non-adversarial system will deny those who may be economically disadvantaged or subject to family violence from having the benefit of access to the court and court orders that both protect their rights and increase personal safety. CBABC cautions policy-makers that efforts to improve access to justice must consider additional measures that improve access to the courts for those who are disadvantaged, including using a triage approach, use of case management, a Unified Family Court option and other tools. A strictly non-adversarial approach does not take into account those who do not have the financial means to use ADR options, equity, diversity and inclusion aspects, nor the impact of coercive control in family law dynamics.
CBABC considered the LSBC report and the recommendations and expressed a need to share additional information for consideration; in a written submission, CBABC reminds decision-makers to ensure that any steps to focus on non-adversarial processes are not going to further impede access to justice, create further delays in dispute resolution, or create opportunities for further abuse in situations where family violence or coercive control is prevalent.