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New study promotes shift in justice system

A new report called "Access to Justice: A Roadmap for Change" may cause radical changes in the Alberta justice system. As part of a comprehensive overhaul of the legal system, the report suggests citizens should have access to simpler and more efficient methods when dealing with family legal issues and asks for more resources and efforts that promote "front-end" services, including education and dispute prevention.

The report was completed by a national committee and different working groups that consisted of judges, lawyers and academics. Started in 2008, the report is based on five years of study and calls for the system to focus on vulnerable groups, such as immigrants and aboriginal or rural populations. Authors also call for increased support for the growing number of self-represented litigants.

The authors ask for a coordinated national reform effort that would decrease the number of barriers that prevent individuals from receiving justice and set out a five-year strategy that would provide for a civil and family justice system that is centred on the individual. If the plan is adopted, by the year 2018, more dispute resolution services and mediation opportunities would be available for individuals so that they can avoid taking the case to court. Additionally, by the year 2019, the plan calls for judges to take a more active role and for courts to be more efficient through use of information technology and online help for parties involved in disputes.

While these changes may be forthcoming, the advice of a lawyer may still benefit any individuals currently involved in family law disputes. A lawyer who has experience in working with family law may be able to help a client resolve disagreements concerning divorce, asset distribution and child custody.

Source: Toronto Star, "‘Multi-use courthouses’ needed, says report on Canadian justice", Tonda MacCharles, October 08, 2013

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