Access to Legal Services in Ontario, Only for the Rich?

I’ve been helping people get divorced and begin their new lives for over 10 years. I understand that when the decision to divorce is made, the natural course of action is to seek out an experienced divorce lawyer to help you through the process, but cost can be a major issue. Hiring a lawyer with expertise in Ontario Family Law starts at an average of $5,000. If your case turns into a fierce battle between you and your spouse, the average cost of divorce can skyrocket to $50,000, if not more, making access to justice inaccessible for most people.

Recently, the newly elected Treasurer of the Law Society made the following observations:

“The gap between those who require legal services and advice and those who can afford it continues to widen. Our laws and legal processes are becoming more complex. It has become more difficult for lawyers and the public alike to navigate our system effectively. Technological advances increase the speed of communication and the availability of legal information, but the legal system has yet to fully address the impact of these changes.”

Like most people in Ontario, I believe that the laws and justice system in Ontario are essentially fair and should be easily accessed to resolve a legal problem usually with the assistance of a lawyer. As the Treasurer points out, it is time for the legal system to address how to apply technology to bridge the gap between those who can afford legal services and the increasing numbers who cannot.

A simple innovation would be computer automation. I have been advocating for the automation of court forms for years. Waiting for the Government to provide this service is like waiting for a glacier to melt. We need to innovate. We need new methods for the delivery of legal services.

The legal assistance needed will depend on the complexity of the legal issues. Websites like My Ontario Divorce offer online platforms that help individuals create their own Ontario Divorce forms at a fraction of the cost that I would charge to prepare them in my office. It’s just the beginning of bridging the gap between the legal haves and have-nots. But, it’s a start.

With that said, if you are caught will in a nasty battle with your spouse who has a lawyer, you may feel more confident if you had one too. If you are in this position sometimes there is no price tag you can place on your sanity. We always recommend that if you in volatile situation with your spouse that you seek an experienced family law lawyer who has your best interest in mind.

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