Impacts of limited legal aid
Birnbaum and Bala stressed that the lack of access to family law services and increased self-representation in family proceedings are “growing concerns” in Canada. They found “limited family law funding” as one of the causes of the increasing number of self-represented litigants in family law disputes.
“Increase in self-representation and cuts to legal aid impose significant resource costs on the family justice system, thus negatively impacting the efficiency of the family justice system,” Birnbaum and Bala wrote.
Birnbaum and Bala found that the lack of access to legal aid for family law matters significantly affects women, Indigenous peoples, marginalized groups, and residents of remote and rural communities. Moreover, they found that the effect of the lack of access to legal aid services can lead to serious consequences, such as loss of parenting time, loss of appropriate child and spousal support, and loss of rights to matrimonial property and pensions.
They stressed the need for a “research initiative” in collaboration with researchers, federal, provincial and territorial partners, lawyers, legal organizations, the judiciary, community organizations, and the public to determine the long-term impacts of lack of access to family legal aid and improve the efficiency of legal aid services.
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