If you are representing yourself, you are not alone. About half of all people who appear in family courts in Ontario do so without a lawyer.
BUT you do not have to do it without legal help. Help is available and you can find out more about it on this website. The good news is that there is more than one way to get legal help. If you are interested in learning more, read on!
Traditionally, when you hire (or “retain”) a lawyer, they take on responsibility for your whole case. You pay them based on their hourly rate – which can add up quickly. Generally speaking, they remain responsible for your case from beginning to end, based on instructions from you.
You have another option, called “unbundling,” or limited scope services.
With unbundled or limited scope services, the client keeps control over the case. The lawyer gives the client help only with certain, agreed-to tasks or from time to time.
You meet with a lawyer at the start of your case, or at a point where you need legal help, and you decide together what parts they will help with and how, and what parts you will handle yourself, based on your budget, your comfort level, and how much time you have available to give to your case.
Unbundled legal services give you a chance to figure out with a lawyer – in person, over the phone, by video conference or by email – how to get the best value and best legal outcomes with the resources you have.
If you want to retain full control over your matter but you would like to have a lawyer assist you in the background, legal coaching is an option you may want to consider. A limited scope retainer or legal coaching can be much less expensive than hiring a lawyer the traditional way, but will give you access to a legal expert when you need one.
Some help is better than no help, especially if you get the help you need, the way you need it, when you need it. People who get at least some legal help report more satisfaction with the court process and better outcomes in their cases. A recent study suggests that cases can take an average of 66% longer to resolve when at least one party does not have a lawyer. Getting some legal advice can go a long way to helping you reduce delays and frustration.
If you are interested in learning more, read on!
Birnbaum, Rachel, Michael Saini & Nicholas Bala. “Growing Concerns about the Impact of Self-Representation in Family Court: Views of Ontario Judges, Children’s Lawyers and Clinicians” (2018) 37:2 Canadian Family Law Quarterly 121–137.