B.C. non-profit launches service for self reps in family law

Studies show a majority of family-law applications are made without legal representation

B.C. non-profit launches service for self reps in family law
Nora Bergh

With most family-law applications filed by self-represented litigants, a B.C. non-profit has introduced a family-law service to help those in the early stages of a separation or divorce.

The Justice Education Society of B.C. launched LawCoachBC for those who fall into the gap between legal aid and the ability to pay for legal help.  

In the last few decades, self-represented litigants have become increasingly prevalent in family law. According to a 2014 survey of Alberta Queen’s Bench judges, the most common reason the courts saw self-reps in family law cases were that the litigants could not afford a lawyer but did not qualify for legal aid. In the Alberta survey, judges reported more than half of family-law cases saw at least one side without a lawyer and around half of the surveyed judges said self-reps achieve worse outcomes for their children than those with a lawyer.

LawCoachBC is a $400 service includes three hours of consultation with a law coach, referral to B.C. family law resources, referral to free mediation services and a six-month subscription to co-parenting app coParenter. LawCoachBC also includes one hour of legal advice from a family-law lawyer working pro bono.

Nora Bergh, a lawyer and law coach for LawCoachBC, says the LawCoach service is meant to fill the information gap, so those who do not have access to a lawyer at least know where to find the assistance that is available to them.

“When you start out and you're left with Google and you do a search, it's overwhelming. There's so much out there and people don't have guidance on what they should do,” says Bergh.

According to a study by the National Self-Represented Litigants Project, which looked at family-law applications in Ontario, found between 64 and 74 per cent of applications made under the Family Law Act, the Childrens Law Reform Act or the Divorce Act, were filed by a person without a lawyer.

Canadian Lawyer’s 2019 Legal Fees survey shows the extent of the bill these self reps are avoiding. An uncontested divorce will cost $600 to $1,000, while a contested divorce will add up to between $7,500 and $12,500. To get a lawyer for a separation agreement or child custody and support agreement will both set a person back between $1,500 and $2,000.

Clients in family law cases tend to waste billable hours on non-legal issues, whether they be conflict resolution, communication between parents or financial budgeting, says Bergh. LawCoachBC helps those in need of family-law services organize their problems so when they use their free hour of pro bono legal advice, they focus on the legal substance of their situation.

 “We will help the Client prep and figure out what their legal question is. We communicate directly with the lawyer to give them a summary of all the issues that the client has told us about so that the lawyer is prepared to talk to the client and they can use that time to actually deal with their legal issue and get the right legal advice,” she says.

Related stories

Free newsletter

The Canadian Legal Newswire is a FREE newsletter that keeps you up to date on news and analysis about the Canadian legal scene. A separate InHouse Edition is delivered on a regular basis, providing targeted news and information of interest to in-house counsel.

Please enter your email address below to subscribe.

Recent articles & video

Ontario law schools and Mitacs partner to provide Intellectual property strategy internships

Crown's persistent non-attendance does not warrant dismissal of serious charges: court

Labour arbitrators' exclusive jurisdiction extends to human rights disputes: SCC

B.C. judge sets $60,000 fine on Whistler resident who deliberately fed bears to highlight deterrence

Alberta law society introduces changes to trust safety rules for lawyers holding client funds

Roundup of law firm hires, promotions, departures: Oct. 25, 2021 update

Most Read Articles

Cities can be sued over 'operational' decisions resulting in tort claims: SCC

What makes for a good litigation lawyer?

New amendments to B.C. securities laws could be challenged, says lawyer with Blakes

BC Supreme Court rules against employer who laid off, then fired, worker because of pandemic impact