New Pilot Project for Legal Aid Ontario
THUNDER BAY – Legal Aid Ontario has changed their options for couples who are going through a relationship breakdown. Andreas Asmus stopped in the NetNewsLedger Studio to talk about those changes and what they mean for couples across Northern Ontario.
The quick story is that Legal Aid Ontario is now offering funding for mediation for couples where they can work toward a legally binding separation agreement.
Separating couples who choose mediation may now both be eligible for legal aid family lawyers as Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) expands its pilot province-wide.
What is mediation? Mediation helps people who have a dispute reach a settlement outside of family court that fits their family’s needs while minimizing conflict and delay.
Starting July 3, when one of the mediation clients is financially eligible for a lawyer, the other mediation client may also be eligible, as long as they earn up to a maximum of $50,000.
This new service, which began as a pilot in select locations in February 2014, has LAO covering the cost of a family lawyer for up to six hours of support and advice for financially eligible clients participating in mediation.
Clients can receive advice about the process before starting a mediation, assistance in preparing for the mediation and legal advice after the mediation to help them understand their rights and obligations under the mediated agreement. The lawyer can also assist with obtaining a court order or binding agreement based on the terms of the mediated agreement.
This service supports mediation delivered by LAO mediators and by the Ministry of the Attorney General’s free on-site mediators in courthouses and their sliding scale, off-site mediators. The independent legal advice program is one of a number of programs that LAO is developing with the use of $30 million over four years in additional provincial funding. LAO’s family law strategy aims to reduce the number of unrepresented family litigants, provide an avenue for consensual dispute resolution, expand the early resolution service sector and provide holistic and integrated services.
Each year, LAO allocates approximately $70 million to help more than 125,000 low-income Ontarians through a wide range of family law services, including summary legal advice, mediation, assistance from lawyers at family law information centres and family law service centres, representation by private practice lawyers, and settlement conferences.
For more information contact:
www.legalaid.on.ca or 1-800-465-7552