Access to justice is something that the team at Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers truly values and fights to increase for everyone by challenging several systemic limitations in place and providing complimentary resources.
Members of our team and other family lawyers across Ontario formed the Ad Hoc Family Law Steering Committee, with the aim to improve access to justice by seeking a return to virtual hearings as the presumptive method in family court. The panel began a petition earlier this year to amend the requirement for in-person court attendance. The petition has received over 1,400 signatures from family lawyers across the province in support of the return to virtual hearings as the presumptive method in family court. The committee also hosted a press conference and a virtual town hall earlier this year in hopes of raising more awareness around these concerns.
As a lawyer practicing family law I’ve been able to best serve all my clients with the time saved using virtual courts. It is progress in the right direction for many reasons, not the least of which is the ongoing pandemic, and should not be easily given up.
The panel recently met with the Attorney General, Doug Downey, to discuss the benefits of virtual hearings and the concerns with reverting to pre-pandemic practices. The panel admired the innovative and technological improvements that the Attorney General implemented to overcome obstacles the pandemic caused and highlighted the importance of maintaining the momentum forward to continue to improve the family court system.
The Courts caught up to this century somewhat during the pandemic by accepting electronic forms and conducting Zoom hearings. There is no reason to stop if it helps someone feel safer.
Thank you to all signatories for your support thus far, the committee is working on the next steps and will provide additional updates as they progress. The panel invites fellow family law professionals to share the petition and updates with colleagues and encourages any who have not yet signed to participate in the petition to help in their pursuit of improved access to justice.
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