Access to Justice for Ontario Families in the Digital Age

Welcome to my blog. I plan to focus on issues related to access to justice in family law in Ontario. Having spent over a decade in the UK, and my undergraduate years in the US, I intend to incorporate some news and views on access to justice in family law from those jurisdictions in my blog.

To begin with, I am particularly interested in how modernization of the justice system and implementation of new technologies can make the experience of separation and divorce less stressful (and less financially burdensome) for Ontario families.

Here are a few intriguing initiatives, one from private practice, and the other government-led:

  • US celebrity attorney Laura Wasser’s much-trumpeted new website “It’s over easy” aims to demystify the divorce process. Wasser’s site promises divorce in five easy online steps (for couples with no kids). This leads inevitably to the question for family law lawyers, are we just putting ourselves out of business by developing such initiatives? Can they really serve the aim of access to justice? Or are they open to exploitation by warring ex-spouses?
  • In the UK, HM Courts and Tribunals Service is piloting a fully digital online system to apply for an uncontested divorce. Such change doesn’t come cheap though. The UK digital divorce pilot is part of a £1 billion ($1.74 billion CAD) investment in the court system. Here in Ontario, Attorney General Yasvir Naqi has announced a pilot project for online filing of joint applications for divorce, beginning April 2018, with planned expansion into other types of family law filings.

As a sole practitioner, I am interested in how new technologies can make for more cost-effective, time-efficient legal practice. These are savings that can be passed on to clients, thereby enhancing access to justice. I also plan to explore these practice management ideas, including cloud-based lawyering, further on the blog.

Technology alone can never be a panacea. There will always be the high conflict cases, where power imbalances and financial finagling cry out for the human element of experienced counsel and clear guidance from the bench. But where we can innovate in the interests of access to justice for families, we should.