Author Tags: Law
A former area director for the Legal Services Society, Garrett N. Wynne wrote Family Court Guide for British Columbia (Self-Counsel 2003 $15.95). See below.
[BCBW 2003] "Law"
Family Court Guide
---"I am stunned," said Vancouver lawyer Vicki Trerise at a protest rally, when the provincial government reduced Legal Services funding from $88 million to $54 million by 2005. "I thought taking away bus passes from low income seniors was as low as you could get… The Ministry will endure a 12.6% cut in staffing, Legal Aid Services are being asked to shoulder a staff cut of 74%. It’s like saying, ‘Our family has to go on a budget. We’ll cut back here and there, and then we’ll just stop feeding old Uncle Willy.’”
“Ms. Trerise has her gender wrong,” says lawyer Garrett N. Wynne, who has penned Family Court Guide for British Columbia (Self-Counsel $15.95). “It is not Uncle Willy who is not going to be fed but rather Aunt Louise. “The legal aid budget cuts translate into an almost complete withdrawal by the Legal Services Society from family law. “In the vast majority of marriage breakups this withdrawal will affect women rather than men, since in the majority of cases the wife is left with the children and with little or no money. Now, she will not have access to legal aid.”
Wynne’s Family Court Guide supplies forms and tables for people to better represent themselves in court, and also in terms of making applications to the court. There are even detours into reassuring advice. “If you ask for a restraining order, the court will almost always grant one,” he says, in ‘Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones.’
“Before the budget cuts, low income earners were entitled to legal aid in any case involving children.
“Now they are entitled only if they can show either a history of violence in the relationship, or that the children are at risk. It is not the income threshold that has changed but rather the change is in the type of case that fits within the Legal Services Society parameters.”
Wynne, who has worked on legal aid cases in Salmon Arm and is a former area director for the Legal Services Society, points out the obvious: Marriages will continue to end. Single custodial parents (primarily women) will continue to need assistance from the Family Court.
The Family Court Guide for British Columbia is a do-it-yourself handbook to help separated parents settle matters of child custody, guardianship, and support payments. It comes with a floppy computer disc that contains all the forms that might be necessary.
“There has been a trend for people to represent themselves,” he says, “and court rules are changing in recognition of that trend so that self-represented litigants can more easily and comfortably work their way through the process.”
The Legal Services Society pays, after holdbacks, $72 an hour. Common hourly rates charged by lawyers are two to four times that amount, according to Wynne, so lawyers themselves will not be deeply financially affected.
“[The cuts] will have an emotional effect, however,” says Wynne, “as I expect to have to tell many more people than before that unfortunately I cannot do anything to help them.”
The provincial courts have been hearing about 15,000 family cases a year pertaining to child protection, guardianship, custody and child maintenance.
—by Jeremy Twigg 1-55180-431-X