This new proposed category of licensee comes from the Family Law Action Plan implemented by the Law Society to “improve access to justice for Ontario families”.
The Plan was the Law Society’s contribution to a joint action plan with the Province of Ontario, as a result of a 2016 report by Justice Bonkalo which reviewed whether the family justice system could be improved by expanding the delivery of legal services to providers other than lawyers.
According to the Law Society, the most acute legal need for Ontarians is representation in family court, where approximately 60% of the parties are self-represented.
The proposed FLSP would be a licensed paralegal trained specifically to obtain the FLSP license. No recommendation has been put forward for another legal service provider to take on this role, such as a law clerk. The training would include 6-8 months on a full-time basis or one year on a part time basis. The Law Society has also issued a Request for Information to gather information from accredited colleges and universities for the delivery of an educational training program to support the proposed FLSP licence.
The details of the proposed new licensee can be found in the Access to Justice Committee: Family Legal Services Provider Licence Consultation Paper.
In general, the proposed FLSP will be authorized to offer the following services:
- Legal advice
- Drafting legal documents
- Representation in court or before an adjudicative body
- Negotiating legal interest or rights
The FLSP will be authorized to offer these services in the following areas of family law (with any exclusions or limitation to be set out in an applicable by-law):
- Parenting order and decision-making (custody and access)
- Child and spousal support
- Contempt/enforcement orders
- Separation agreements, paternity agreements, and family arbitration agreements provided that the client agrees to obtain independent legal advice from a lawyer
- Change of name applications
- Division of property
The FLSP would NOT be able to engage in several out of scope activities, including:
- Matters involving income determination
- Third-party experts and valuators
- Cohabitation agreements and marriage contracts
- Child protection matters
- Declarations of parentage
- Matters where the client is under the age of 18 or mentally incapable
- Matters involving reproductive/fertility law issues
- Appeals or motions for leave to appeal
- Matters overlapping with an area that is out of scope for the FLSP or out of scope for paralegals generally
- Or where legal issues or assets are outside Ontario.
The Call for Comment is “an opportunity to engage in productive dialogue with the legal community and the public on the most effective approach to improving access to family law services.” The Law Society has set out a list of consultation questions and is looking for comments and input to be submitted by November 30, 2020.
The questions and information on how to submit your comments can be found here.
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