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Posts tagged ‘ontario’

We Are Now Seeking an Associate Family Lawyer

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers is growing and we are seeking an Associate Family Lawyer to join our team! We practice exclusively in all areas of family law at multiple office locations in Ontario. We provide the opportunity to work remotely up to three days a week.

Job Type: Full-time

Salary: $150,000.00 – $200,000.00

Required skills and knowledge:
• Qualified to practice law in Ontario;
• Minimum of 3 years experience in Family Law and litigation;
• Interest and/or Certification in Collaborative Practice;
• Ability to work independently and in a team-environment;
• Strong and effective analytical and problem-solving skills, and excellent writing skills;
• Ability to engage in effective oral advocacy;
• Excellent organizational and time management skills, including attention to detail, and an ability to multi-task;
• High level of professionalism and initiative.

Responsibilities:
• Drafting legal documents, including but not limited to, pleadings, motions, affidavits, financial statements and conference briefs;
• Upkeep on all current client files, as well as bringing in new clients
• Delegating work to law clerks, and working closely with law clerks on files;
• Attending court.

Applications will be kept confidential. Please submit resume and cover letter to reception@russellalexander.com

What is the Resolution Evolution – the Path to Peace?

What is the Resolution Evolution – the Path to Peace?

The Resolution Evolution – the Path to Peace is an OCLF/OAFM Conference and your opportunity to take advantage of world-class training close to home, to meet and network with other collaborative professionals, and to socialize with our professional colleagues.

The conference will run May 2, 3 & 4, 2019 at the Brookstreet Hotel, Ottawa, Ontario.

To register or learn more, click here.

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers’ First Annual Holiday Toy Drive

Poster for Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers' Toy Drive

 

Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers are pleased to announce the start of their First Annual Holiday Toy Drive. This year the drive will be supporting Bethesda House located in the Durham Region and A Place Called Home located in The City of Kawartha Lakes.

New, unwrapped gift donations can be made in the Brooklin office for the Bethesda House. They have informed us of the lack of gifts for children 13-17 years of age. Some gift suggestions for them include:

  • Sports equipment
  • Art supplies
  • Games
  • Movie passes and gift cards
  • Purses and backpacks
  • Make-up, lotion, perfume
  • Hats and scarves

The Lindsay office is accepting new, unwrapped gifts to be donated for A Place Called Home. There is no recommended age for donations for this organization.

If you wish to donate to the toy drive this year, it will be running from November 1, 2018 through to December 7, 2018. You may drop by with your donation in the Brooklin or Lindsay office any time between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Monday to Friday. For further details, feel free to give our office a call at 905-655-6335.

Collaborative Law Practice – Coming to More Ontario Law Firms Near You

Collaborative Law Practice – Coming to More Ontario Law Firms Near You

As the name of my firm says, here at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers we practice what is known as “Collaborative Family Law”, which is a voluntary, contract-based Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process for those seeking to negotiate a resolution of their Family Law dispute, rather than having one imposed on them by a court or an arbitrator. In many ways, it’s similar to mediation, except that it usually does not involve the participation of a neutral third party to help the couple reach a resolution.

Although use of the Collaborative Law process is perhaps not as widespread in Ontario as in other North American jurisdictions, the release on October 27, 2016 of the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation’s “Draft Accreditation Standards” paves the way for an even broader presence in the province. These Accreditation Standards aim to bring consistency, professionalism and heightened standards of competence to practitioners of Collaborative Law (like my firm).

The Ontario Collaborative Law Federation currently represents 18 groups of specially-trained professionals across the province, and imposes rigorous standards for membership. (For example, in the case of Collaborative Legal Professionals, it requires the completion of at least 40 hours of collaborative training, including interest-based negotiation skills training and Collaborative Family Law skills training).

Moreover, all Collaborative lawyers are already licensed and regulated members of the legal profession, and in their role as advocates for their clients, are already duty-bound to adhere to certain professional standards imposed by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

But once approved, the Draft Accreditation Standards will provide an additional layer of obligation and competence for all professionals who participate in the Collaborative Law process.

Accreditation is voluntary, but those who will choose to obtain this designation will have to adhere to the Accreditation Standards’ mandatory requirements (once they are approved); however, those who opt not to apply for accreditation are not prohibited from engaging in Collaborative Law provided they adhere to the same requirements.

In other words, once they are in final form, the Accreditation Standards will effectively govern both those who choose to seek accreditation, and those who do not.

This will be a welcome addition to the Collaborative Law field, and by extension a good development for Family Law litigants in Ontario. In the U.S., since the year 2010 there is already a Uniform Collaborative Law Rules and Act, which among other things standardizes the most important features of Collaborative Law participation agreements between the parties, and requires Collaborative lawyers to take certain steps and make certain inquiries of their clients.

In Canada, the use of Collaborative Law has perhaps been somewhat piecemeal in nature, but it’s growing. The Alberta Family Law Act (in section 5), the British Columbia Family Law Act (in section 8), and Saskatchewan Family Property Act (in section 44.1), each require lawyers who act on behalf of a spouse to inform him or her of the Collaborative Law service that might help resolve their matters. The legislative counterpart in Ontario (i.e. the Family Law Act) does not contain such a requirement, but it’s likely on the horizon soon.

At Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com

More Calls for Reform in the Ontario Family Law System

More Calls for Reform in the Ontario Family Law System

While the Ontario government has heralded reforms to streamline the family law system, a new Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) interim report is calling for additional measures.

The LCO, which is an independent organization that researches issues and recommends law reform measures to make the law accessible to all Ontario communities, has released an interim report recommending 39 different changes and reforms to the existing family law system. Many of these recommended changes are designed to increase access.

The interim report, titled “Best Practices at Family Justice System Entry Points: Needs of Users and Responses of Workers in the Justice System” emphasizes the need for litigants, especially those who are self-represented, to have ready access to entry-points to the legal system.

For example, the Ontario government currently provides Family Law Information Centres, which are located in various courthouses. However, the LCO suggests this choice of locale may limit accessibility, and recommends instead that such Information Centres be placed in more strategic locations, such as libraries, doctors’ offices, supermarkets and law firms. On the other hand, the LCO still acknowledges the need for personalized fact-to-face interaction for those who need information on legal services, but points out that this is not always available, because most Ontario Legal Clinics do not provide services in family law issues. As such, the LCO suggests that legal aid lawyers could be positioned in community centres (especially in rural areas with limited legal service); alternatively, the government could provide subsidies to those legal clinics that offer family law advice.

The LCO report also puts forth recommended changes to the Alternative Dispute Resolution aspect of family law, suggesting that the government establish and fund a court-wide network of Dispute Resolution Officers, and that it provide legal aid certificates to those low-income people who are willing to use non-judicial options for resolving their disputes.

Finally, the report makes several other recommendations for government-implemented changes, including:

• establishing early access to information through one basic brochure and one online website;

• providing increased legal aid for persons trying to negotiate an agreement or trying to mediate a family dispute;

• in the long term, providing family centres across the province which offer comprehensive family justice services at entry point level, close to people’s communities.

These suggested family law reforms are an adjunct to earlier recommendations by the LCO, which among other things has resulted in the implementation of advisory groups, consultations, and research papers. The present report will similarly be the subject of consultation with various stakeholders until April 30, 2012, after which time the LCO will begin the task of assimilating the received input and preparing a final report.

Russell Alexander Family Lawyers work exclusively on divorce law and family related matters, including custody, spousal support, child support, alimony and separation. We are located in Ontario, and serve the communities of Oshawa, Whitby, Pickering, Ajax, Markham, Brooklin, and City of Kawartha Lakes (Lindsay).

www.russellalexander.com

 

 

LinkedIn Ontario Divorce Lawyers

LinkedIn Ontario Divorce Lawyers

Ontario Divorce Lawyers is for lawyers and family law professionals practicing family law in Ontario, Canada.

Our goal is to provide a forum for professionals to exchange ideas, information and insight into practicing family law in Ontario and helping our clients with Divorce and related issues.

If you are a Ontario Divorce Lawyer or family law professional please consider joining our Professional Group on LinkedIn.

 

The Perils of Self-Representation on Family Law Matters

The Perils of Self-Representation on Family Law Matters

A new study, conducted by university law professors Nicholas Bala and Rachel Birnbaum, reveals that an upsurge in the number of self-represented litigants is creating significant difficulties in the Ontario family court system.

The study was based on an Internet-based survey of 325 family lawyers attending a Family Law Summit held by the Law Society of Upper Canada in June of 2011. The results showed a distinct increase in the number of self-represented parties in family matters brought before the court, with “inability to afford a lawyer” being the most predominant reason.

However – despite the common misperception that not hiring a lawyer will save costs – the lawyers participating in the study reported that when litigants on the opposing side of a family matter choose to represent themselves, the costs for the represented side tended to increase. They also reported that in their view, unrepresented litigants generally have worse legal outcomes in the case than if they had hired a lawyer to represent them.

The study reveals an area of growing concern for the justice system. Indeed, in an Ontario decision called Cicciarella v. Cicciarella, the court had occasion to address the adjustments that need to be made to accommodate the upswing in numbers of self-represented litigants. It wrote:

[36] The increase in the number of litigants who appear without legal representation can pose special challenges for busy trial judges. Leeway is allowed for a self-represented party, especially as it relates to procedural matters …

[37] While judges should afford an unrepresented litigant additional “leeway,” there is a line to be drawn, as our Court of Appeal enunciated in Davids v. Davids 1999 CanLII 9289 (ON C.A.), (1999), 125 O.A.C. 375 at para. 36 (C.A.). The judge cannot descend into the arena from the bench and advocate for the self-represented litigant …

[38] It is axiomatic that both sides are entitled to a fair trial. As Platana J. noted at para. 18 of Baziuk v. Dunwoody (1997), 13 C.P.C. (4th) 156 (Ont. C.J. (Gen. Div.):
The problem of unrepresented parties, who may not be familiar with law and procedure, is one which is facing courts today with an ever increasing frequency. Courts are mindful of a degree of understanding and appreciation which should appropriately be extended to such parties. However, notwithstanding the difficulty with such parties attempting to properly represent themselves, courts must also balance the issues of fairness and be mindful of both, or all parties. Issues of fairness of course must always be determined in accordance with accepted legal principles and the law which has developed. A sense of fairness and understanding granted to unrepresented parties ought never to extend to the degree where courts do not give effect to the existing law, or where the issue of fairness to an unrepresented litigant is permitted to override the rights of a defendant party.

The court went on to observe that, as a direct result of this increase in the number of self-represented Canadian litigants, in 2006 the Canadian Judicial Council adopted a “Statement of Principles on Self-represented Litigants and Accused Persons.” While the Statement of Principles is meant to be advisory in nature, it provides guidance to judges, court administrators, members of the Bar, legal aid organizations and government funding agencies in relation to self-represented persons. Among other things, it sets out the responsibilities of judges towards self-represented litigants and other parties, and emphasizes that judges are to do whatever is possible to provide a fair and impartial process, and to prevent an unfair disadvantage to self-represented persons. It underlines the point that, while a judge may choose to exercise some leeway in procedural matters, he or she must never slip into the role of advocate for the self-represented party.

Notwithstanding these measures, the decision by a litigant to represent him or herself is one that can be fraught with challenges and negative repercussions. Family cases tend to be complex, and their outcomes have a profound effect on the parties and their children. Therefore, any decision to proceed without competent legal representation in a family law matter should only be undertaken after carefully evaluating all of the considerations and possible ramifications.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit www.RussellAlexander.com

For the full text of the judgment, see:

Cicciarella v. Cicciarella, 2009 CanLII 34988 (ON SCDC) http://bit.ly/o8gYmj

For a summary of the findings by the study’s authors, reference: http://bit.ly/ouTyYa

Can You Get Damages for “Emotional Distress” in Family Law?

Can You Get Damages for “Emotional Distress” in Family Law?

In Ontario at least, the answer to this question is “yes”, according to the 2009 court decision in McLean v. Danicic, in which a wife was awarded significant damages after her husband engaged in what the court called “a relentless campaign of harassment” against her after they separated. This included him sending her numerous harassing letters and intimidating photographs, and sending her a written threat that he would “personally put a bullet in her head”. His conduct had caused the wife to suffer considerable distress, acute anxiety, and fearfulness which required her to seek medical attention and take medication regularly.

Accordingly, as part of the separation and divorce process the wife asked the court to award her damages for pain and suffering or for harassment, claiming that the Ontario Family Law Act (the “FLA”) allowed for such an award in the right circumstances.

In considering the wife’s request, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice noted that historically there were only two specific situations in which such damages could be awarded under the FLA:

1) where a plaintiff loses a loved one because of the negligence or misconduct of the defendant, thereby losing the loved one’s services and/or companionship; and

2) where there is “assaultive behaviour” after a relationship breakdown.

The court further observed that in the second category of cases there is usually a criminal conviction for some sort of physical assault (and by definition a clear factual finding by a judge that the assault occurred).

Nonetheless – and even though it was not specifically requested by the wife – the court in McLean v. Danicic was willing to entertain a damages claim for harassment, more specifically in the form of the tort of “intentional infliction of mental suffering and emotional distress.” In order to prove such a tort, the following three elements must be present (as has been established in an earlier decision called Prinzo v. Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care):

1) flagrant or outrageous conduct;

2) calculated to produce harm; and

3) resulting in a visible and provable illness.

Applying this test the wife was awarded $15,000 in damages, as a means of expressing “society’s outrage” at the husband’s conduct, and to compensate her for the losses she suffered. (The husband later appealed on an unrelated point, but was unsuccessful).

Despite the outcome in McLean v. Danicic, emotional distress damages will be awarded in every case, however. Two subsequent Ontario decisions from 2010 illustrate that the facts and circumstances will remain an important consideration in determining whether such damages are appropriate in any given situation.

In Druhan v. Druhan the court – after initially expressing doubt about its jurisdiction to award damages for mental distress at all – found no reason to award them in the case before it. According to that judgment, the mere fact that one of the parties to a family proceeding brings a motion, launches an appeal, responds to a motion with a cross-motion, or simply aggravates or distresses the other party, will not amount to “flagrant” or “outrageous” conduct under the relevant test.

Similarly in A.A. v. G.G., the court conceded that the mother’s conduct no doubt had a severe emotional impact on the father in the circumstances. However, it was unable to conclude that her conduct had resulted in the father suffering the required “provable illness”, since there was no medical evidence; indeed the court doubted whether the father had any illness at all.

Clearly, damages for emotional distress and mental suffering remain a distinct possibility in Ontario family law. But given the inherently volatile and distressing context of almost every family law proceeding, it will be interesting to see where the court will draw the line on culpable behaviour by separating and divorcing spouses.

The full text of these decisions can be found at:

McLean v. Danicic http://bit.ly/foSg1W appeal on other grounds dismissed

Prinzo v. Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care http://bit.ly/gGuy60

Druhan v. Druhan http://bit.ly/gWM9hF

A.A. v. G.G http://bit.ly/hq9NYv

Further information about family law and family law court decisions can also be found on our website at www.russellalexander.com