29 November 2012

Salvation Army Pro Bono Program Shut Down

I am very sorry to report that the Salvation Army's pro bono legal advice program has shut down. Although I understand that self-sufficient regional clinics may be maintained, the clinics run out of the program's central Vancouver office at Belkin House, such as the clinics at the Robson Square Provincial Court registry and the Caring Place in Maple Ridge, are terminated effective immediately. This is a really disappointing development; the program was run very efficiently and served thousands of people, and I've been volunteering with the program since 2002.

This would seem to leave Access Pro Bono as the last independent provider of full-service legal clinics in the province. (Help can also be had from the UVic and UBC legal advice programs, and from the countless community-based programs run by organizations like the Battered Women's Support Services and the YWCA.) Lawyers volunteering with the Salvation Army program should sign up with Access Pro Bono's summary legal advice program as soon as possible.

28 November 2012

Regulations to Family Law Act Published

The orders in council implementing the regulations required by the new Family Law Act were made on 23 November 2012 and published on 26 November 2012.

The regulations will, as of 18 March 2013, the day the Family Law Act comes into force, repeal the regulations under the old Family Relations Act and replace them with the Family Law Act Regulation (PDF) and the Family Law Act Pension Regulation (PDF). A host of regulations to other statutes, from the Contaminated Sites Regulation to the International Business Activity Regulation, are amended to accommodate the Family Law Act by orders in council 798 to 846 (PDF).

The Family Law Act Regulation deals with:
  1. the provincial employees able to work as family justice counsellors and the information and documents required for their work;
  2. the minimum training standards required for professionals working as mediators, arbitrators and parenting coordinators under the Family Law Act;
  3. the adoption and adaptation of the federal Child Support Guidelines for use in British Columbia under the Family Law Act;
  4. the continuing work of the Child Support Recalculation Service out of the Kelowna registry of the British Columbia Provincial Court;
  5. the forms required for the appointment of standby and testamentary guardians under ss. 55 and 53 of the act; and,
  6. fixing $10,000 as the limit of the value of children's property which can be managed by a guardian without court order under s. 178 of the act;
According to the press release from the Ministry of Justice, the training standards required for professionals working as mediators, arbitrators and parenting coordinators consist of:
"At least 14 hours of in-depth training on how to identify and screen for family violence or power imbalances to determine whether, or what type of, dispute resolution process is appropriate. 
"A minimum level of family-related experience and training in their area of practice. 
"A minimum of 10 hours a year, per year, of ongoing training to ensure their skill set remains relevant. 
"Extensive training on the new Family Law Act."
These training standards must be met by 1 January 2014, giving everyone just over a year to get up to speed. Lawyers working as mediators, parenting coordinators and arbitrators will also additionally be governed by the training standards (PDF) required by the Law Society as they may be amended from time to time.

It is not entirely clear what fate will befall non-lawyers who have not taken the training required by the deadline. At a minimum, it seems to me that such people will not be "mediators," "parenting coordinators" and "arbitrators" to whom the court can refer people under the Family Law Act and, in particular, that the awards of people working as arbitrators and the determinations of people working as parenting coordinators will not be "awards" or "determinations" capable of enforcement under the act.

The Ministry of Justice has published a new page on its website explaining the new regulations.

21 November 2012

New Provincial Court Report: Fewer judges now than in 2010

The Provincial Court of British Columbia has quietly published an updated document (PDF) detailing both new judicial appointments and judges lost to the court between 30 September 2010 and 31 October 2012.

Boiling it all down, the numbers show that the court has a judicial complement of 123.80 full-time equivalent judges now, three judges less than the complement of 126.30 the court had this time in 2010, and twenty judges below the 143.65 judges the court had in 2005.

In 2010, the court published a powerful a report detailing the effects of the short judicial complement on the administration of justice, Justice Delayed: A Report of the Provincial Court of British Columbia Concerning Judicial Resources (PDF), which ought to be mandatory reading for anyone with an interest in Provincial Court matters. The conclusion reached by the court is short and to the point:
"The Provincial Court of British Columbia is the only provincial court in Canada with fewer judges today than in 2005. In fact there are 17 fewer judges, and unless further appointments are made, this will result  in a loss of over 900 trial days in 2010 and over 1600 trial days in 2011.  
"To be effective in supporting the rule of law, and to fulfill its legal obligations to the public, the Court must process cases within a reasonable time. For most cases the Court is legally obligated to provide timely access and, as with other courts across Canada, seeks to manage its caseload according to accepted standards which reflect the relative public interest and priority of the different case types. 
"Given the reduction in the judicial complement the Court is unable to 'keep pace' with the new cases being presented to it. The current inventory of uncompleted cases is growing markedly, as is the delay for all case types other than youth court prosecutions. Increasingly the Court is failing to meet its legal obligation to provide timely access to justice."
The court has now released an update to the 2010 report (PDF), current to 30 September 2012.

20 November 2012

Competition Heats Up for Family Law Arbitrator Training

The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, the preeminent provider of legal education for lawyers in the province, has just announced a training opportunity for family law lawyers wanting to practice as arbitrators, mere days after information about a similar course being released by the BC Arbitiration and Mediation Institute; see my post below. CLE's offering is scheduled to run from Tuesday 5 February to Saturday 9 February 2013 at a standard rate of $1,950, about $1,000 cheaper than the BCAMI offering and two weeks earlier.

So far, what we know about the two courses is that CLE's course will be taught by Lorne Wolfson, a respected family law lawyer and arbitrator from Toronto. BCAMI's course (DOC) was designed and will be taught by British Columbia family law lawyers and arbitrators, who I expect will include Glen Bell, Jane Henderson and Craig Neville. The CLE course will also leave you with a copy of the 5th edition of Lorne's book, Family Mediation, Arbitration and Collaborative Practice Handbook.

19 November 2012

MediateBC Releases Updated Guidelines for Distance Mediation

MediateBC has announced the release of the Distance Family Mediation Project’s second edition of Mediating from a Distance: Suggested Practice Guidelines for Family Mediators (PDF). According to the blog post announcing the release:
"The guidelines are a detailed compilation of the knowledge acquired by our Distance Family Mediation Project on the topic of how to conduct family mediation 'from a distance', using technology. The project – which took place in three phases, beginning in 2007 – explored the feasibility of using information and communication technologies to conduct distance family mediations in British Columbia. The third phase, completed in June 2012, was a pilot providing family mediation services to people in all parts of the province, with a focus on using web conferencing technology. 
"This second edition of Mediating from a Distance updates and expands on the guidelines published previously by our project, and highlights the knowledge gained during the third phase. It provides a new and exciting emphasis on how to mediate using video and web conferencing technology, as well as offering additional suggestions for mediating with other types of technologies." 
MediateBC has done a fantastic job piloting distance mediation, an essential resource in the lesser-populated areas of the province where it can be very difficult to find a qualified mediator.

07 November 2012

BCAMI Family Law Arbitrator Training Set for February 2013

The British Columbia Arbitration and Mediation Institute has been working to develop training (DOC) for family law arbitrators since the Family Law Act became law last November. They must be ready to go, because the first session is set for five days beginning on 18 February 2013. I understand that the cost will be just under $3,000.

Unfortunately, I don't know much more about the BCAMI's new offering apart from this. BCAMI's ordinary arbitrator training is given in Vancouver by esteemed lawyer and arbitrator Glen Bell and requires three separate sessions running to a total of eight days, or two sessions and a total of five days for lawyers. I took my arbitrator training with Glen and thought that the program was excellent.

Arbitration is one of the "family dispute resolution" processes discussed in the new legislation, along with mediation, collaborative processes and parenting coordination. The Family Law Act will make a number of consequential amendments to the Commercial Arbitration Act to make it more friendly to the arbitration of family law disputes.