On December 17, Ontario’s Attorney General Chris Bentley will offer an early Christmas present to men and women in the province who will walk the unavoidably stressful, often traumatic path of divorce: a quicker, cheaper and more civilized experience.
Details on the changes are currently unavailable, but the Canadian Press has learned that they will focus on increased access to legal advice early in the divorce process, and with that, timely exposure to out-of-court resolution alternatives such as mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorce.
Ultimately, the changes are designed to enable quicker, cheaper and more civilized divorces – which is welcome news to would-be battling spouses, as much as it is to children, friends and extended family members who are often caught in the emotional and financial crossfire. It is also good news for family lawyers who dread the unpredictable crapshoot of needless litigation as much as their clients.
And on a more pragmatic level, these changes also promise to lessen some of the administrative weight that is crushing family courts; a burden that prevents many divorcing individuals from accessing a judge – and a judgment – for months, even years. According to Bentley, these changes will help shift government resources “to the [divorce] cases that need more attention, helping them to be resolved faster and better as well.”
Still, those who wish to look Bentley’s gift horse in the mouth will notice that there is no additional government funding on the way. Instead, there will be a reallocation of some funds already earmarked for Ontario ’s Legal Aid – a move that is sure to raise the ire of individuals and lobby groups who have been fighting for Legal Aid increases for years.
Changes to Ontario’s divorce process are expected to come into effect early in 2010.
Divorce Magazine will stay on top of the Attorney General’s announcement and publish updates as they unfold.
***UPDATE: For a snapshot of Ontario’s new divorce process changes click here.