ONTARIO BAR ASSOCIATION - FAMILY LAW SECTION EXECUTIVE FALL REPORT by wyf14327

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									        ONTARIO BAR ASSOCIATION - FAMILY LAW SECTION EXECUTIVE
                       FALL REPORT - November 2004
                  Grant Gold, Chair of the Family Law Section


1.     Dinner Meetings
September 14th, 2004 - Attorney General Addressed the Family Law Section
       [summarized from an article by Elizabeth Stokes, student-at-law, Goodman and Carr LLP and
       Anne Marie Horne, partner at Epstein Cole LLP ]
The new Attorney General for Ontario, Michael Bryant, addressed our family law section. The
focus of the speech was on developments and reform in Ontario family law. The A.G. talked about
improving services for families and, in particular, the newly created Ministry of Child and Youth
Services, which aims to consolidate many important services for children under one ministry and
deliver services to children by working collaboratively with other ministries. He raised the
following issues: victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, children involved in the justice
system, backlogs in the Courts, the new Family Law Rules, arbitration act, and pension issues. He
expressed some concern about the Arbitration Act, regarding the possibility of vulnerable or non-
consenting individuals participating in the arbitration system.


Pension issues, including valuation approaches and division methods, are considered by the A.G.
to be “a fairly urgent problem” given the lack of guidance provided under the Family Law Act. He
is quite aware that most times there is competing evidence from valuators which results in costly
disputes for clients. He also acknowledged that the baby boomer generation will certainly be
pushing this substantive issue to the forefront. The A.G. stressed the importance of flexibility in the
law to reflect various marital arrangements. Taking all of this into consideration, he has asked his
policy people to look into the necessary reform in the pension area. He promised to work with
family lawyers and other interested parties to mould the law to find resolutions.


The A.G.’s comments that the Province must act now to amend laws to reflect the new reality and
changing nature of family laws received enthusiastic applause. He commented that the definition
of “spouse” must be changed to conform with the Halpern decision of the Court of Appeal.
Additional necessary reform also includes rethinking the definition of “parent” for birth certificates
and other purposes. The definition must encompass the various types of parental roles, for example,
bearing children through assisted human reproduction.


What was most encouraging was that Mr. Bryant spoke about the process of how to accomplish
these substantive changes. He said there would be regular meetings between his Ministry and the
Family Law Bar to discuss the issues of policy development and changes in legislation and in
particular, he wants our input on the Spousal Support Guidelines, our submissions on pension reform
and on the definition of “parent” and “spouse”. The A.G. encouraged the Family Law Bar to
continue to raise the issues that they encounter in practice, and give recommendations to lawmakers.
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October 18, 2004 - The Family Law Rules: Perils and Pitfalls


Judges, practitioners and court staff addressed issues under the Family Law Rules, including how
to avoid being caught by the time limits; common problems with filing and how to avoid them; what
to watch out for in motions; how to get your case to trial; how to conduct a trial under the Family
Law Rules.

November 16, 2004 - Mediation/Arbitration: What you need to know, pros and cons, advantages
and disadvantages

Philip Epstein Q.C. will chair a panel of senior family lawyers [Terry Caskie, Julie K. Hannaford,
Hilary Linton] who will speak on the pitfalls to avoid and tips on how to maximize the benefits of
mediation/arbtiration.

January 2005 Institute Program Agenda

The all day program is called “Hard and Soft Core Family Law” and is designed to be a balance
between updates from top-notch practitioners and academics on “hard” legal issues, with advice
from professionals on the “softer” side of family law practice. Topics to be covered include an
update on the Child Support Guidelines, the Spousal Support Guidelines, ADR and collaborative
family law, pensions. There is a session by Natalie Armstrong from Golden Media in California on
marketing your family law practice. In the afternoon, attendees have a choice of workshops on
topics ranging from parenting plans to common law/same-sex family law issues.

2.     Committee Work

Family Law Reform Committee

Our family law reform committee is actively working to bring forward to this government, our
suggested areas of reform. The committee is trying to use the momentum created by the A.G.’s
invitation for our input on legislative reform. The committee is hoping to have a proposal to the
A.G. on pension reform by the end of November. The committee is also considering the following
topis of legislative reform:

•      Pensions
•      Matrimonial Home
•      Eligibility for Adult Support
•      Extension of Property Rights to Unmarried Spouses
•      Parental Definition
•      CFSA issues
•      Implementation of S. 25 (D.A.) - variations out of court
•      Guidelines as to retroactive child support/ change in disclosure requirements
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•       s. 5(6) issues (power to adjust even where NFP are equal, discretion to take into account
       post-separation events)
•      Change in treatment of gifts and inheritances, to eliminate different treatment depending on
       whether received before or during marriage (and to change to deduction instead of
       exclusion?)
•      Anti-Avoidance Provision
•      Changes to Common Law (Trust) remedies


3.     Legislative Update

The expansion of the Family Law Rules to all courts has taken place in Ontario and one set of Rules
now governs all family law cases.

								
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