Family Dispute Resolution Professionals Call for Changes to Keep Families Out of Court

The Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario (FDRIO) is calling for major family law reform designed to encourage more separating couples to settle their disputes out-of-court.

“There are many things that the government could do that would cost little or nothing to improve access to family justice in Ontario”, says family lawyer and FDRIO founder Tom Dart.

“Our courts should be community hubs”, says Dart. “The infrastructure is paid for. Courts could used evenings and weekends for accessible mediation, triage, counselling and other essential services”.

Other suggested reforms include:

  • Allow judges to order high-conflict parents to parenting coordination
  • Order couples to separate intake meetings with a family mediator before they start a court proceeding (except in an emergency);
  • More court triage so that families are streamed into the best services for them.

The recommendations address the high rate of domestic violence among separating couples, such as mandatory family violence training for all family law professionals, including lawyers, and requiring everyone working with separating couples to screen first for family violence.

Other key recommendations include amending child support laws to reduce conflict over the amount to be paid in ‘shared custody’ cases; amend property laws to treat married and unmarried couples the same; change bankruptcy laws to better protect spouses; eliminate the terms ‘custody’ and ‘access’ from Ontario law; make it easier for those using private arbitration to enforce awards;

The proposals support continued and improved funding for Legal Aid Ontario, while encouraging the government to consider different funding models, including using private legal service providers in the courts.

“We are urging the government to pass laws simplifying everything from the way unmarried couples are treated under the way child support is determined when the parents share custody. These recommendations are long overdue, enhance access to justice, respect the need to protect spouses and children from domestic violence and most cost nothing”, says Dart.

For more information visit www.fdrio.ca


Tom Dart:   tdart@barristonlaw.com

Hilary Linton: hilary@riverdalemediation.com