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Professor Nick Bala innovates to help self-represented family litigants

Bala innovations to help self-represented family litigants

Professor Nick Bala, Law’77, a renowned expert on children and families in Canada’s justice system, has a major role in a project tagged “Limited Scope Family Law Services” that recently received a three-year grant of $250,000 from the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO).

The twin goals: increase the Family Bar’s capacity to provide “unbundled” services and stimulate demand by publicizing their value and availability.

There have been dramatic increases in family litigants appearing in court unrepresented, often for financial reasons. This creates huge challenges for the justice system while jeopardizing the rights, safety, and interests of everyone lacking representation or proper legal advice. “‘Unbundling’ is one of the innovations needed,” says Bala, “and not just in family law.”

This project will facilitate separated parties’ access to legal advice and representation for critical parts of the legal process. Lawyers may be involved on just one occasion or may have an ongoing coaching relationship with a client who will take primary responsibility for their case. For the lawyers who become involved, education, precedents, and a website searchable by location and service types will be provided. Simcoe County gets the first pilot project in June. Expansion across Ontario starts in the fall. To improve delivery modes, Bala is involved in researching the experiences of judges, lawyers and other professionals, as well as family clients.

Bala reports: “I’ll be involving student researchers in the project, and I already address issues of self-represented litigants and unbundling in my family law courses.”

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