The legal process in the dealings of Family/Divorce proceedings have developed throughout the years into a fair and just system. Currently Family/Divorce law, sits for the most part in the hands of the provincial level government, however, there are overarching federal laws in place that constitutes the dealings of divorce. The division of all property, upon such an occurrence as divorce, that is acquired between the times of the marriage and the day that the separation is enacted is in all sense completely equally divided between the two parties[1]. In addition as of 2005 Canada also acknowledged same sex marriage to be valid and of equal stature to a marriage between a man and a woman[2] which enables same sex divorces to be enacted under the same laws as any other marriage. In such sights Family/Divorce laws are gender neutral, meaning that neither gender has an advantage over the other, and divorces are, in Canada, sexual orientation neutral, as in laws that apply to a marriage between a man and women apply by all means to a gay or lesbian couple. As such the actual basis of divorce cases are fair and just and seem to be on balance with modern views. However, that does not go to say that the legal system in perspective to such legal dealings of divorce is an entirely just and fair system nor does it go to say that the system does not need to be changed.

In terms of accessibility and financial expense the family and divorce proceedings are for all intended purposes appalling. The expense alone of hiring a lawyer in order to represent you at court is unrealistic for anyone but the wealthy[3]. In a survey done on 275 family litigants in Ontario showed that 60% were self-represented during their divorce proceedings and the number one reason as to why be that they could not afford to pay for a lawyer[4]. The people who came from a wealthier background were much more likely to have a lawyer to represent and to help them to navigate the field throughout their legal proceedings[5]. A similar survey was conducted in Calgary on lawyers and judges; the findings showed that north of 50% of such proceedings that were done where either one or both parties were representing themselves[6]. Moreover, a specific case outlined by Mclean’s magazine showed that Augustine, a woman who had recently suffered a divorce to which she could not afford a lawyer, used all of her vacation and sick days in one year in order to represent herself in court following her separation. Even so, at the end of the year she found she was no closer in finalizing that divorce[7]. Mclean’s described self-representation as a process that is not “[for] the faint of heart” and describes Augustine’s incredible struggle[8]. “Let’s face the facts, the cost of lawyers has escalated dramatically,”[9] stated David Scott, an Ottawa lawyer and chair of Pro Bono law Ontario.

Facing this serious problem, the most significant change that needs to occur in Family/Divorce law is not the laws themselves but the accessibility of the proceedings. The process as it stands takes people who are at one of their most vulnerable and devastated moments in their lives and enhances their feelings of desperation by surmounting the stress. Speaking from a child of divorce, or rather watching my parents deal with separating over the last few years I understand first-hand the difficulties and the lack of help they are given in response to the situation of divorce. Lawyers need to be more financially accessible so that unqualified people are not left to navigate a legal system that they have no specialty knowledge of. In most of these cases, as in the case of Augustine, these people get cheated out of just representation and as such they are at a significant disadvantage throughout the proceedings.

This problem is dire and similar to most legal situations, complicated. There is no easy answer in the improvement of this legal process however there may be small ways to allow a more accessible legal system. For instance Augustine stated, “I don’t make a lot of money, but I make too much to get legal aid.”[10] This problem could be minimalized or eliminated if the amount of income of which was necessary in order to be eligible for legal aid was reduced. This could allow more people access to legal support. Similarly, more governmental aid programs should be set up for those who require them in addition to more government sourced lawyers. It is obvious that neither of these options is simple or inexpensive in themselves, but they may perhaps be an effective answer in dealing with this problem that has affected so much of our population.

Lastly, in order to minimalize the overall affects that divorce reaps on its victims, and as the process is as demanding and expensive as it is, affordable and accessible therapy should be more readily available. After such a rigorous and damaging process a variety of people may require counselling or therapy to which, after such an expensive process, they cannot afford. People suffering through such pivotal and aggressive situations should not be left without government aid to help them sort through such a phonetically altering time. Despite the significance in the problem of expense, mental health, stability, and stress should also be accounted for.

In conclusion, Divorce/Family law has been set upon grounds of solid legal backings and laws. However it does not extend its reach so far as to actually help people dealing with the proceedings. As such the legal process needs to be reformed to be more accessible to people of all wealth brackets and to be more supportive to the people who require it.


[1] http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/divorce/division_of_property/

[2] http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/28/AR2005062800858.html

[3] http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/01/14/when-lawyers-are-only-for-the-rich/

[4] http://www.cba.org/CBA/sections_family/newsletters2012/self-representation.aspx

[5] http://www.cba.org/CBA/sections_family/newsletters2012/self-representation.aspx

[6] http://people.ucalgary.ca/~crilf/publications/Self-reps_Report_Final_Dec2012.pdf

[7] http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/01/14/when-lawyers-are-only-for-the-rich/

[8] http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/01/14/when-lawyers-are-only-for-the-rich/

[9] http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/01/14/when-lawyers-are-only-for-the-rich/

[10] http://www2.macleans.ca/2009/01/14/when-lawyers-are-only-for-the-rich/

 

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