Summary of Activities for the Child-centred Family Justice Fund 2003-2009

Public Legal Education and Information/Professional Training

The third component of the Fund included Public Legal Education and Information and Professional Training (PLEI and PT). The objective of this component was to enhance the knowledge of families, the judiciary, lawyers, court staff, enforcement staff, mediators, and others about family law issues concerning parenting arrangements, child support guidelines and support enforcement measures. The focus was on ensuring that target groups, were well informed about changing services and legislative reforms in family justice. Unlike funding under the Family Justice Initiative and the Pilot Project components, funding under the PLEI and PT component was only available to non-governmental organizations. The goal of this funding was to support initiatives that would enhance the knowledge of Canadians, including the legal community, about family law issues concerning parenting arrangements, child support guidelines, and support enforcement measures. Examples of funded activities are described below.

Public Legal Education and Information and Professional Training

Nova Scotia

The Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS) received funding to carry out the following activities:

  • They made a Divorce Kit accessible on their Web site as part of their ongoing efforts to enhance Canadians' knowledge of family law issues. This was supplemented by increased Web access to a wider range of information and other resources centred on family law issues.
  • As part of their continuing-education efforts, LISNS held a one-day family law symposium for those who help clients resolve parenting and child-support issues. The purpose of the symposium was to help professionals, intermediaries and service providers to keep abreast of current family law issues. Topics that were discussed included, for example, changes within the Family Division; enhanced conciliation and intake triage; programs and information for parents; supervised access; mediation, and the Maintenance Enforcement Program. Also discussed were various family laws, including the Domestic Violence Intervention Act; the Divorce Act; and the Children and Family Services Act.
  • In partnership with several other non-government and government organizations, LISNS developed a publication called “Safely on Your Way: Child Custody and Access Information for Women Leaving Abusive Relationships and Their Service Providers”. It provides legal information for women in the post-separation stage who are trying to deal with custody and access issues, focusing on information women need to keep themselves and their children safe.
  • The Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse produced materials offeringpertinent information in French to children whose parents divorce or separate. The information was produced in paper format for distribution to high school guidance counsellors at the “Conseil scolaire acadien provincial (CSAP)”. It was also made available on-line. The Association also produced on-line vignettes that could be downloaded remotely by a cellular telephone. This made access to the material easier and more private for youths who wished to acquire information on family law to help them cope with the separation of divorce of their parents.

Prince Edward Island

The Community Legal Information Association (CLIA) of Prince Edward Island, Inc. undertook a “Going to Family Court” project, to help professionals educate their clients about parenting arrangements, child support and maintenance enforcement measures that included information sessions and other material delivery alternatives. This project was targeted at anyone thinking of going to court to resolve their family disputes. It was particularly useful to unrepresented litigants and to those who did not understand the court process. It was designed to build on work previously done in Prince Edward Island in an effort to improve access to the legal system for all Islanders. Materials developed during this project will be maintained and used in future work by CLIA.

Newfoundland and Labrador

The Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland (PLIAN) received funds for the following projects:

  • In 2004, and again in 2005, PLIAN conducted an education campaign to enhance the knowledge of Canadians, including the legal community, about family law reforms related to parenting arrangements, child support guidelines, and support enforcement measures. This campaign involved the development and execution of information sessions throughout the province. These sessions were strongly attended and provided participants with information aimed at easing the intimidation that many people feel when dealing with the courts. This, in turn, improved access to family law resources.
  • In order to continue to meet the informational needs of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, the Public Legal Information Association of Newfoundland and Labrador also developed a family law guide containing information that is relevant for all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, This guide was made available in five languages including English, French, Inuktitut, Innueimun and Mi'kmaw. The guide was so popular that it had to be reprinted and an additional 1,500 copies were distributed. PLIAN obtained input for this guide from Aboriginal and French speaking minority communities through discussions and consultations with representatives from these groups. The consultations assisted PLIAN in defining which family law topics were of particular interest to these groups. The objectives of the project were to target hard-to-reach groups, develop information that would meet the needs of the official language minority communities, promote parental responsibilities, inform and educate other parents among the general public who were separating or divorcing and assist unrepresented litigants.

New Brunswick

The Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS-NB) produced an informative guide to address family law concerns and related law information questions from unmarried teen parents and young parents. The purpose of this guide was to consolidate information that individuals previously had to search out from numerous different sources. The guide presents the information in a clear, concise manner, using vignettes and examples to explain possible outcomes. It also dispels common myths about the rights and responsibilities of parents, and promotes responsible parenting by emphasizing the entitlements of the child, and the obligations and responsibilities of the parents.

PLEIS-NB expanded on this project with the creation of dynamic one- or two-hour workshops on popular family law topics associated with the guide. A cadre of experts was mobilized to deliver the sessions and monitor outcomes. The sessions with service providers enabled those service providers to discuss some of the issues flagged in the guide, such as paternity, child support, custody and access, and to provide supplementary resources, referrals and explanations. These discussions enhanced the ability of the service providers to use the guide with their clients. The sessions with young parents and pregnant teens explored common myths about the rights and responsibilities of parents while emphasizing the entitlement of the child. They also offered greater detail on certain law information topics and provided numerous tips on finding information and getting help.

PLEIS-NB also updated and revised other family law guides, particularly those dealing with divorce and child support. Additional new family law materials were developed to ensure that accurate legal information was available and that it was clearer and more understandable to all individuals attempting to access family law legal processes. To complement their existing materials, PLEIS-NB also produced two new bilingual products related to family law, namely, Interjurisdicitonal Support forms and guides, to assist separating and divorcing parents. Those products were developed in consultation with the federal Department of Justice and provinces and territories.

In 2008‑2009 (PLEIS-NB) undertook to revise, enhance and republish the self-help guide called “Doing Your Own Divorce in New Brunswick” which was in high demand in New Brunswick. The guide is available to libraries and service provides and on the PLEIS-NB Website. Having educational guides for people using the courts in family law matters helps them navigate the process and reduces the time of court clerks when they are filling papers.

The Association des juristes d'expression française du Nouveau-Brunswick received funding to produce materials required for training sessions for francophone lawyers. The sessions were intended to enhance the ability of francophone lawyers to provide French family law services such as out-of-court conflict resolution.

Manitoba

The Community Legal Education Association (CLEA) of Manitoba produced a workbook of five to six case studies, targeted to children aged 8 to 12. These case studies were based on research and interviews with young people that were supplemented by observations from parents, social workers and after-school-care staff. Younger children were found to need help from teachers with some sections of the workbook, but it was otherwise successfully received. As there is still very little in the way of legal information written for children, CLEA intends to further address this gap by developing new materials and approaches to educate youth.

CLEA also worked with the Association des juristes d'expression française du Manitoba to publish a French guide to family law and hosted two workshops in French, one in Saint-Boniface and the other in Saint-Pierre-Jolys, entitled “La séparation et le divorce”.

In collaboration with the Association internationale francophone des intervenants auprès des familles séparées (AIFI)In November 2008, the Association des juristes d'expression française de common law inc. (FAJEF) organised a national symposium on family law in French. The symposium took place in Moncton in November 2008. The first of its kind in Canada, the symposium sought to expose family law stakeholders to juridical terminology in French, and to offer them training in French about family violence and the impacts it could have on children by example. Part of the fund was also used to produce summaries of 17 court decisions related to parenting, child support guidelines and ordinance enforcement support. Those summaries were produced in French and were distributed to stakeholders and presented to the symposium in November 2008.

Alberta

The Children's Legal and Educational Resource Centre(CLERC) used funding to improve the position of children in relation to the legal system. The funding supported the creation of handbooks and question-and-answer cards directed at young people. Input from youth was incorporated in the design and content of these materials, which addressed the goal of refocusing “adult” issues in a manner that would be understandable to the young people affected by such issues.

The Association des juristes d'expression française de l'Alberta received funding in 2008 to develop and produce French-language information material on family law for francophones in the province, and to elaborate on information for people who were representing themselves. The Association also held a series of six information sessions on family law in order to inform and educate francophone parents and youths who were going through a divorce. They also developed a new Web site section on family law pertaining to separation and divorce.

Saskatchewan

The Public Legal Education Association (PLEA) of Saskatchewan used funding to research and develop a bilingual “Parenting Responsibilities” booklet for parents. The booklet provides information on case law, parental duties, parenting arrangements and recent trends, with the goal of creating family dialogue and ensuring parents are aware of their responsibilities. It also includes a pullout for children.

In a separate project, PLEA developed an electronic, intermediary training module to give individuals in the human services profession the knowledge and skills they need to help their clients find legal information to deal with their specific problems. In this sense, the module enables users to act as legal intermediaries. The legal writers, working with the Association's Web designers, developed an electronic training module for intermediaries, based on PLEA's Family Law Intermediary Training Guide. The training module is interactive, with an emphasis on the use of plain language and ease of use. An on-line evaluation form was also developed, for intermediaries to submit to PLEA once they have completed the training module.

The legal writers also developed an issue of The PLEA newsletter on parenting responsibilities. This information was written specifically for young people (Grades 7 to 12), and presented in a format that engaged this audience in the topic. The PLEA Parenting Responsibilities Issue was distributed to all schools in the province in late January/early February of 2005.

Because of changes to provincial legislation, PLEA of Saskatchewan received additional funding to revise their publications “Single Parents” and “Custody and Access”. These publications were included in the Department of Justice Family Law Kits and were distributed to intermediaries across Saskatchewan who deal with clients from hard‑to‑reach groups, such as Aboriginal peoples, immigrants, low-income earners, those with low literacy skills, rural and northern residents, abused parents, and young or teen parents.

In 2008, the Association des juristes d'expression française de la Saskatchewan received funding to develop a simple French-language guide and then deliver a series of information sessions targeted at immigrants, young francophones, and educators to inform them about their rights and the law.

Ontario

The Northumberland Child Development Centre (NCDC) received funding to develop a “Positive Parenting from Two Homes” program. The program was developed in response to the need for information and support for parents who were parenting from two homes. The concept of delivering this program was initiated in Prince Edward Island. NCDC used the materials from Prince Edward Island and adapted them for Ontario residents. Nine sessions were delivered by facilitators throughout Northumberland County. The objectives of the program were to provide information for parents about mediation, legal and court processes; provide information about community and government resources; provide education about the mental and emotional aspects of divorce and separation; and encourage dispute resolution processes in order to reduce on-going conflict and lengthy litigation in custody and access cases.

The Peel Family Mediation Services made an effort to improve on the mediation services available in the province of Ontario. They attempted to reach out to diverse communities in the Peel region through a campaign of education and the translation of family law materials into a variety of different languages. This was part of an attempt to increase trust through increased exposure to family law services in the community, with the goal that increased trust, as well as translated materials, would facilitate increased access to family justice for members of minority communities. This project also allowed for research into those communities to be gathered to better service them in the future.

The Réseau de chercheures africaines used funding to conduct a research project entitled Les femmes francophones des communautés ethnoculturelles et droits de la famille. Researchers conducted interviews with regional minority individuals concerning their access to the legal system and what might make them more aware of their rights and responsibilities. They also held information sessions to explain the structure and function of the justice system to groups who might not otherwise have had access to this information. In 2008, the Réseau des chercheures africaines held a series of approximately 10 educational discussions to better inform francophones from Ontario about family justice, child support, visitation rights, etc. The goal of this research and the educational discussions was to make it possible for the organization to better overcome the obstacles that prevent francophone visible minority women from accessing services that could benefit them.

A similar research project was conducted by the Alliances des femmes de la francophonie canadienne into the situation of francophone women with regards to family law. This survey of 41 organizations about the services and resources available in French determined that there was a clear need for Web sites and workshops that offered information on family law. A particular need for Web sites that target young people was identified.

Dogstar Film and Video Productions produced two videotaped sessions of the 311 Open Bar Series for educational purposes both in Ontario and internationally. (The series of sessions operated under the sponsorship of the Toronto Family Lawyers' Association and The Family Court Judges of the Ontario Court of Justice in the Toronto region). The topics of the two videotaped sessions were “Enforcement of Orders” and “Spousal Support”. Both sessions were videotaped at the Family Court House in Toronto on February 7, 2005 and March 7, 2005 respectively and are 72 minutes in length. The “Enforcement of Orders” session was chaired by Justice Brownstone. This session included a discussion of contempt proceedings, default hearings, costs, remedies under the rules for failure to comply with court orders, as well as garnishments and other remedies under the Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act. The “Spousal Support” session was chaired by Justice King. Recent developments in this area were discussed, including entitlement, variation (both prospective and retrospective) and quantum.

Quebec

Several Quebec agencies received funding for a variety of public legal education and information projects. For example:

  • Collectif des femmes musulmanes immigrantes du Quebec received funding for a university-based research project to examine how “religious tribunals” functioned as family law arbiters, with a specific focus on the effect on Muslim women. Oral interviews were conducted, coded by keywords and a study was made of how parallel justice (religious tribunals) compared with a mediator working in concert with family court. These results can be used in future discussions about bringing non-governmental groups into the family justice system.
  • Educaloi, a Quebec's public legal education and information organization ran a Family Justice Outreach Initiativewith the goal of providing family law information to the Anglophone community in Quebec. Communities were consulted through questionnaires and interviews. Information gathered from that research was used to produce a pamphlet that would respond to communities' needs. Educaloi also produced an 80-page plain-language guide to family law in French under the title Être parent, tout un contrat.
  • Another organization, Le Petit Pont, received funding for a project entitled “L'enfant au cœur de nos préoccupations” in order to develop and produce information materials to make family justice reforms better known and understood by family law service providers and others. A Web site has also been created to inform the public and the parents about rights and services offered. Le petit Pond received funding in 2008 to realize information sessions that will be supported by the tools already produced. These sessions will be for lawyers, judges, social workers and parents that are experiencing separation or divorce and are in difficult situations.

British Columbia

The Law Courts Education Society of British Columbia (LCES) engaged in a series of projects with financial assistance from the PLEI and PT component of the Fund.

  • They revised and reprinted the “Parenting after Separation Handbook” and the “Parenting is Forever Training Guide”. The revision of the ”Parenting after Separation Handbook” is mainly intended for the Chinese, Punjabi and Francophone communities. These booklets were provided free of charge to Success, which manages the Chinese Language PAS Program, and to the Surrey-Delta Immigrant Services, which administers the Punjabi language program.
  • On a pilot basis, their “Separated with Children—Dealing with the Finances” program organized workshops. Accompanying workbooks focused on the financial burden faced by divorcing parents and how to manage those strains. Input and feedback will be incorporated into a revised program and a Web-based version will be built.
  • In order to increase the awareness and understanding of the issues specific to divorce among legal professionals who act as intermediaries in family law cases, they designed and delivered seventeen “Explore Family Law”workshops. The workshops were supplemented with print and Web resources for both professionals and the general population.
  • They used the Fund to produce a video entitled “Family Law and You” in partnership with the Knowledge Network, which is the public educational broadcaster in British Columbia. They also received funding to digitize and adapt the video for their Web site. This 45-minute video provides information about how individuals may undertake legal proceedings on their own in order to minimize their legal costs. The video can also assist anyone who needs to deal with matters such as divorce, custody and access, guardianship and/or support. It draws on the expertise of a BC Supreme Court judge, a family law practitioner and a BC Supreme Court Self Help Information Centre representative. It also follows the story of a woman representing herself in BC Supreme Court.
  • They developed educational resources that present information and explain Supreme Court procedures in plain language. This project targeted the growing number of people who have chosen to represent themselves in the Supreme Court. The name of the Project is “Self Representation—Equality of Access through Educational Resources”. Once again, they partnered with the Knowledge Network on this project. This project undertook a multifaceted approach with three components: a one-hour, studio-based forum to present key issues and concerns about self representation in Supreme Court on family law issues; 10 short videos between three and five minutes in length, built around two case examples to illustrate the court processes; and lastly, a series of three 30-second public service messages that drew on the footage shot for the videos. The messages focused on the materialsavailable, how to access them and the importance of proper preparation.
  • They developed a family Web-form computer program to help self-represented litigants who complete family law forms on-line. This program automatically fills in portions of the blank Web forms and includes text boxes that pop up on the screen when the client accesses the forms.It was installed on the computers in the Self‑Help Centre, which opened officially in April 2005, and is situated in the provincial court in Vancouver. The project focused on the area of divorce forms, both sole and joint divorce requests. It was anticipated that these family Web forms would benefit over 400 self-represented litigants annually.
  • They developed a Web-based multimedia presentation, “Preparing your Case for Chambers”. This presentation is designed to help self-represented litigants to better understand how to prepare for a family law application in Chambers and how to speak to a judge in Chambers. It assists litigants by providing guidance and assistance on determining the information that is relevant to their case and what must be included or excluded in their affidavits. The Web-based multimedia presentation replicates what a judge would say when speaking to a group of self-represented litigants about Chambers, what judges need, and how litigants should go about preparing their matter for the court. This Web-based resource is posted on the LCES Web site and linked to the Self‑Help centre Web site.
  • They built on the “Kids in the Middle” project that they had previously undertaken with Saskatchewan Justice. Saskatchewan Justice had adapted the “Kids in the Middle” program material provided by LCES and had transferred it to a CD format. The LCES project adapted the “Kids in the Middle” CD for inclusion on the LCES Web site. It was developed in such a format that it could also be used by Saskatchewan Justice or any other jurisdiction. Adapting “Kids in the Middle” for the Web will make it more accessible to Aboriginal parents, especially those living in remote communities. It was promoted as part of the “Kids in the Middle” workshop program and some training resources were developed so that all LCES regional coordinators would receive training on how to promote use of the Web site. The new and improved Web site is used as a follow-up to the Kids in the Middle program in order to reinforce the program's messages. It can also be used independently in a variety of situations where the program is not available.
  • They also received funding to organize and run a National Aboriginal Parent Education Program. Sixteen workshops were conducted across the country over the course of a year (four more than the twelve originally scheduled). These workshops targeted Aboriginal service workers. LCES produced a facilitators' guide that included the “Kids in the Middle” materials. Through this communication and partnership with Aboriginal service organizations, the LCES provided new services and materials for individuals who could incorporate an Aboriginal perspective in education workshops with Aboriginal people and address the specifics of their situations.
  • They created a tool kit that would allow Aboriginal service providers to use the numerous family law resources developed by LCES with their clients and communities. The intent of the project was to identify the differing, specific needs of aboriginal communities and then re-package these resources in such a way that aboriginal community workers could better utilize the resources that best meet those needs. A set of tools was created that could be easily accessed and used productively to meet differing client and community needs.
  • They created an interactive on-line site where children whose parents separate can go for support, advice, and the comfort of knowing they are not alone. The interactive nature of the site allows children to express themselves both internally and to their parents, and to apply the things they have learned from other related sites.

As with similar organizations in other provinces, the Association des juristes d'expression française de la Colombie-Britannique provides support for francophones in British Columbia. The Association received funding for three separate projects, as follows:

  • They undertook activities aimed at increasing the amount of French language resources available to public legal education and information. The intention was to provide tools to service providers in British-Columbia and to increase awareness among francophones in British-Columbia about issues related to access to justice, family violence and family law by providing information in both official languages. Activities included the editing and adaptation in French of legal information. Brochures were produced and distributed to the francophone community, and more elaborate versions were made available on the Internet.
  • They developed a French DVD with a simple and clear presentation on the rights and obligations of parents towards their children, including information on support obligations, when parents divorce or separate. The DVD was aimed at specific target groups, including hard-to-reach parents going through a separation or a divorce, as well as the homeless, illiterate individuals and youths who resist written information.
  • They provided information sessions to French teachers on rights and responsibilities of parents toward their children, including support obligations, when parents divorce or separate. This project placed a particular emphasis on young parents. Sessions were divided into two sections: one to train the teachers so they could inform their about issues that would be relevant to them; and one to provide teachers with information that would help them be intermediaries between parents and children experiencing a divorce or separation).

Professional Training

Alberta

The Legal Education Society of Alberta received funding for their “Child Representation Project.” The aim of the project was to develop, deliver and evaluate a three-day training program to educate legal professionals around the adequate and effective legal representation of children. Combining legal, non-legal and community interest into one deliverable model, the project was guided by the principle that the voices of children must be effectively heard in legal proceedings affecting them.

Ontario

The National Judicial Institute received funding for four distinct projects between 2003 and 2008.

  • The first two of these projects saw the development of training materials for judicial education on dealing with high-conflict divorces. The project raised child-related issues in an effective child-centered fashion. The first phase of the project focused on developing an agenda, determining key issues to be included in the program and designing a widely varied set of fact situations that would accommodate a full discussion of key issues at all stages of the process of a high-conflict custody case. In the second stage of the project, scripts were drafted for fact situations and videos were produced from these scripts. The videos and accompanying materials were then used in delivering a two and a half day seminar for Judges. During the seminar, judges worked on improving their skills in dealing with high-conflict cases, managing and controlling high-conflict families, crafting effective orders and avoiding ineffective orders.
  • The third project was the development oftraining materials for judicial education on child protection cases. An intensive seminar in the area of child welfare law was designed. An agenda, relevant materials and teaching aids (video, fact sheets) were produced in order to deliver a well designed pre-seminar workshop to prepare the faculty for their teaching roles in the program.
  • The fourth project undertook the development of training materials for judicial education on self-represented litigants in the family law system. The intent of these materials was to help legal professionals know what to expect and how best to deal with Family Court clients who are not professionally represented. A guide and a documentary style video were produced and can be used to inform judges of expectations and experiences for parents representing themselves. The video material was designed to supplement the Guide to non-Adversarial Dispute Resolution for Self-Represented Litigants in Family Law.

Manitoba

The Child-centred Family Justice Fund partnered with the Justice Partnership and Innovation Fund in a project undertaken by the Institut Joseph Dubuc, of the Collège universitaire de Saint-Boniface to develop and deliver a new French language legal course with reference to wills and estates, divorce, child custody and share of assets and real estate transactions.

Other Projects

Two family law experts, Professors Carole Rogerson and Rollie Thompson, received funding to further the development and implementation of Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines.

  • They gathered information and feedback about the Draft Proposal for Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines that they had previously prepared and that had been released in July 2008. This was pursued through group discussion sessions and continuing education activities for professionals on the support enforcement regime. From the period of December 15, 2004 to July 31, 2005, they met with lawyers and judges in most of the major centers in all provinces except Saskatchewan in order to discuss the contents of the draft proposal. The professors were successful in creating an informed understanding of the basic structure of the Guidelines. which set the process of a more intensive soliciting of feedback and responses in the next stage of the project.
  • For the period from April 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007, the professors continued to provide information about the Guidelines to lawyers, judges and mediators. They received informed feedback on the operation of the proposed Guidelines and made revisions to the draft.
  • They obtained funding in 2008‑2009 to prepare a paper to help train judges, lawyer, and mediators to use the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG). They also held several initial information sessions and continued to work with software providers who are among the primary conduits for information and education on the proper use of the Advisory Guidelines.

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