Report recommends using paralegals to streamline, expand family law in Ontario

A report released Monday makes 21 recommendations for streamlining and expanding the family court system in the province, including allowing paralegals to provide some services.

Last year, the provincial government and the Law Society of Upper Canada asked Justice Annemarie Bonkalo to lead a review to consider whether a broader range of service providers could deliver certain family legal services.

Bonkalo's report notes that in 2014-15 more than 57 per cent of Ontarians did not have legal representation in family court, meaning just over 21,000 people were unrepresented.

The former chief justice also referenced a survey that found 49 per cent of those surveyed indicated that the main reason they did not have a lawyer was that they could not afford it and were not eligible for legal aid.

Bonkalo's report says many people currently seek advice and guidance from sources such as friends, community members and the Internet instead of hiring lawyers.

She says properly trained and regulated paralegals would be better than no representation for cases such as custody and divorces without property. Ontarians can submit feedback regarding Bonkalo's recommendations online until May 15.

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