This paper is part of a long term consultation process regarding project possibilities for the LCO, which started two years ago, even before the official launch of the LCO. From the beginning, it became clear that there were serious concerns in the area of family law in Ontario. The area of family law has been subject to much criticism for a number of years. On November 30, 2006, individuals interested in law reform held a Creative Symposium to discuss the creation of a new law reform commission for Ontario and to set priorities and identify potential law reform projects. Creative Symposium participants suggested several potential studies in family law including the definition of legal parenthood; previous Ontario Law Reform Commission Reports on property and pensions that have never been acted on; spousal support obligations/guidelines, based on already conducted previous research; child custody and restructuring parenting; domestic contracts; intersection between family law and bankruptcy; family law obligations, what they should/shouldn’t encompass; dependency issues in family law, for example parents claiming support from their children; harmonization of federal/provincial law for service delivery.
The LCO also received directly proposals for comprehensive review of family law. The proposals came from a wide variety of sources, including academics, family law, estates and trusts practitioners, the courts and the government. The LCO Board of Governors also asked Professor Lorne Sossin to consult with various organizations and recommend projects and initiatives that the LCO might undertake as its initial research priorities and Professor Sossin received a number of suggested projects in this area. Proposals to Professor Sossin included the division of pensions on marriage breakdown, the legal definition of the family, discrimination against same-sex couples, estates issues, a study of the establishment of a mandatory registry that records the genetic parents of all children born in Ontario, alternatives to self-represented litigants in family law, enforcement of custody and access orders and issues relating to the structure of the courts.
The LCO heard that pension division was of particular urgency and adopted a project in that area at its inception that it has recently completed. Otherwise, the broad range of family law proposals prompted the LCO to continue the consultation process in order to identify the greatest concerns in the area. Accordingly, in September 2008, the LCO organized a Family Law Roundtable. The aim of this paper is to discuss ideas that emerged from the Family Law Roundtable and to lay out two new project possibilities for the LCO in the area of family law. The next LCO family law reform project will respond to concerns expressed during the ongoing LCO consultation process and especially during the Roundtable.
The LCO invites various stakeholders in the area of Ontario family law and the Ontario population in general to respond to this paper, comment on project options and let us know what project they believe the LCO should undertake. This project options consultation process will take place in February and March 2009. Following these discussions, the LCO will develop a family law project proposal to be submitted to its Board of Governors for approval.
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