New Paralegal Family Law License Aims To Help Ontarians Who Can’t Afford A Lawyer

January 10, 2023by Ramachandran Law0

The Law Society of Ontario (LSO) has decided to open the doors of family court to paralegals today by allowing a license that lets them to provide some family legal services.

With the proposal green-lit, qualified paralegals will eventually be permitted to help clients navigate family court by walking them through procedures like filing deadlines. It can also help them in preparing and completing applications for simple joint and uncontested divorces, domestic contracts and name changes.

This proposal was originally recommended to Ontario’s Attorney General in a 2017 report to help address access to justice in family court, where the majority of litigants are now self-represented, largely because they can’t afford a lawyer. The version that was up for a vote today is narrower than what many paralegals and some experts were hoping for, but paralegal LSO board member Michelle Lomazzo says it’s a start.

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“It’s this or nothing … at least it’s a foot in the door,” she told CBC Toronto. “I believe we’ll be able to add things to it over time.”

“It’s this or nothing … at least it’s a foot in the door,” she told CBC Toronto. “I believe we’ll be able to add things to it over time.”

The narrower focus does work for the judiciary, which would allow paralegals to appear in court on motions to change child support where a person’s income is less than $150,000 (and determined by their employer) and to respond to proceedings to enforce support payments through this license.

In a letter to the LSO, Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz of the Superior Court of Justice and Chief Justice Lise Maisonneuve of the Ontario Court of Justice said the licence “will improve access to justice and serve the needs of vulnerable family law clients.”

The Court system is ‘not user-friendly’ for self representation. The number of people selfrepresenting in family court has been on the rise since at least 2014, according to Statistics Canada. In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, 58 per cent of litigants in family court were self-represented across the country, and experts say that number is closer to 80 per cent in urban centres like Toronto.

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