liberty statue displaying business

Should paralegals be allowed into family court?

It’s one of the most divisive questions swirling through the Ontario legal community this year.

With most litigants now appearing without a lawyer for family cases in the province, a recent family law review by a former Ontario court chief justice recommends paralegals be allowed into family courtrooms on certain matters, including custody and access, simple child support cases, and restraining orders.

The recommendation has pitted many lawyers and judges, including the entire family court bench at the 311 Jarvis St. courthouse, against those who argue paralegals could possibly provide a more affordable alternative for some people who would otherwise simply show up before a judge on their own.

Public feedback on the report by ex-chief justice Annemarie Bonkalo was being accepted until this week, and the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Law Society of Upper Canada, the body that regulates both the legal and paralegal professions, are working on an action plan to be released this fall.

When the Bonkalo review was released in March, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi said, in a statement, that the government is “committed to working with our partners and the federal government to consider changes that will have a real, positive impact of people’s lives, like allowing paralegals to be trained to provide family law services.”

In an effort to mobilize public support around the paralegal recommendations, and out of a concern that the Law Society will push back against them, the National Self-Represented Litigants Project at the University of Windsor has launched a petition directed at the ministry and law society.

“The public ask us all the time, self-reps ask us all the time: why can’t we have a paralegal do our family matter? They can do small claims, immigration, traffic court, why the heck can’t they do family cases?” said project director and law professor Julie Macfarlane.

courtroom with old style windows in London

The Superior Court of Justice is dedicated to ensuring meaningful access to justice for family law litigants at all Superior Court locations. Access to justice means providing family court services and processes that are timely, efficient, effective, and affordable.

The purpose of these services and processes is to resolve family cases in ways that minimize conflict, safeguard the children’s best interests, protect the legal rights of all family members, and resolve issues as early as possible.

Family Court Services

Family Court services include:

Much of the following information about Family Court services is drawn from the Ministry of the Attorney General, which is responsible for administering many of these services. For further information about Family Court services, please see Family Justice Services on the Ministry Attorney General’s website.

Family Mediation Services

Family mediation is a way of helping people resolve issues relating to parenting, separation, and/or divorce including custody of or access to children, child and/or spousal support, and property division. A family mediator can help people identify the issues that need to be resolved upon separation, and can assist in working out solutions.

Government funded family mediation services are available at all court locations in Ontario where family cases are heard. These services are available on-site for cases that are in court on that day and appointments can also be made for off-site mediation services.

To locate a family mediator in your area, please see Family Justice Services on the Ministry Attorney General’s website.

Mandatory Information Programs (MIPs)

MIPs provide litigants with essential information about the family justice system, the options available to resolve their disputes, and the effects of separation on children and adults. This program empowers litigants – represented or unrepresented – to make informed choices about their future and to discover what resources are available to assist with the philosophy of putting children first and of resolving matters early before further, unnecessary litigation.

MIPs are provided at all court locations across the province where family cases are heard. In most cases, both litigants are required to attend a MIP as a first step in their family court case.  These programs cover such topics as:

  • the effects of separation and divorce on adults and children
  • alternatives to litigation
  • family law issues
  • the Family Court process
  • local resources and programs for families facing separation and/or divorce

For further information on MIPs, please see Family Justice Services on the Ministry Attorney General’s website.

Family Law Information Centres (FLICs)

FLICs services are available at all court locations where family cases are heard to provide information about separation and divorce, family justice services, alternative forms of dispute resolution, local community resources, and court processes.

Information and Referral Coordinators (IRCs) are available at designated times at these resource centres to help litigants understand their needs and to make referrals to appropriate services. IRCs provide information about family mediation and other ways to resolve issues without going to court.

For a listing of FLICs offices throughout Ontario, see FLICs Locations.

Additional information regarding FLICs can be found on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website, Family Law Information Centres (FLICs).

Dispute Resolution Officer Programs

Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs) are senior family lawyers appointed to conduct family case conferences. DRO programs provide litigants in family proceedings with an early evaluation of their case by a neutral third party. This service often narrows the issues in dispute and facilitates settlement. The work conducted by DROs mainly deals with motions to change child and spousal support orders.

In locations where the DRO program is offered, the first appearance on a request to change an order comes before a DRO, rather than a judge. The DRO meets with the parties to determine the issues, explore settlement options, and determine if the file is ready to go before a judge. DROs do not have the authority to make orders, but are often able to help the parties agree to a settlement, which can then be confirmed by a judge, or at a minimum, can assist in setting a schedule for disclosure and the next steps in a case.

DRO programs are currently available in Toronto, Brampton, Milton, Newmarket, Barrie, Durham and Hamilton. For the DRO program schedule, please see the Dispute Resolution Officer Schedule Annex. Additional information can be found in the Court’s practice direction.

For further information on Family Court services and additional programs, please see Family Justice Serviceson the Ministry Attorney General’s website.


Clients Served


Years of experience


Availability & Support


Saved for our clients

This function has been disabled for Mortgage Cash.