Queen's University

People representing themselves in family court becoming a major problem, study finds


Different legal institutions, agencies and professionals need to come up with a range of solutions for addressing issues caused by increasing numbers of people who are representing themselves in the family justice system, according to a new study co-authored by Queen’s University law professor Nick Bala.

“Everyone – judges, lawyers and litigants – is increasingly frustrated with this issue,” says Professor Bala.
People most often represent themselves in family court because they can’t afford a lawyer and they don’t qualify for Legal Aid, according to the study, but a significant portion of people are choosing to represent themselves.

“With cuts to legal aid and the rise of the do-it-yourself society, propelled by Internet and court TV shows, fewer people have lawyers. Now, many people who in the past would dig deep or borrow money from parents to hire a lawyer, decide they can get by on their own,” says Professor Bala.

The study finds a significant number of people can afford a lawyer but decide to self-represent because they feel they don’t need one. In some cases – especially with men – people believe they will have as good an outcome, or even better, without a lawyer, or they want the opportunity to directly confront their former partners in court.

Results of the study have been published in Lawyers Weekly and will be presented in July in Halifax at the National Family Law program, a meeting of family lawyers and judges.

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Last updated at 4:28 pm EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
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