Ontario’s Family Law Limited Scope Services Project comes to Osgoode

Osgoode Hall Law School entrance to the Ignat Kaneff building

Osgoode Hall Law School at York University is the new home to Ontario’s Family Law Limited Scope Services Project.

Trevor Farrow (left) with Shelley Kierstead

Ontario’s Family Law Limited Scope Services Project is a private-bar driven collaborative initiative that will now live under the mantle and care of the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution and the Osgoode Mediation Clinic (OMC), two organizations closely tied in both mandate and operations. The Winkler Institute, established in 2014, is a vibrant research centre committed to innovation and excellence in dispute resolution and access to justice. The OMC provides free mediation and conflict-resolution training to the York University community as well as the Greater Toronto Area.

Over half of the family law cases in Canada’s courts involve self-represented litigants. Ontario’s Family Law Limited Scope Services Project seeks to improve access to justice for middle-income Ontarians by establishing an online directory of trained lawyers willing to provide unbundled legal services. These services, which include limited-scope retainers, legal coaching and summary legal counsel in family law matters, allow clients to maintain general control over the case while also receiving legal services from a lawyer on specific tasks.

Shelley Kierstead, academic co-director of the Winkler Institute and family law professor, “is delighted that this valuable and necessary endeavour has found a new home at Osgoode” and “look[s] forward to further developing its various components to respond to Ontario families’ evolving needs.” Trevor Farrow, Kierstead’s Osgoode colleague and academic co-director, agrees: “Finding creative ways to provide more legal services to more people will be an important part of solving Canada’s growing access-to-justice crisis, particularly in the area of family law.”

Working tirelessly on the project since its launch in 2018 were: principal investigator Rachel Birnbaum, a professor of social work at King’s University College, Western University; legal co-investigator and Queen’s University Law Professor Nicholas Bala; Chair of the project’s steering committee, Tami Moscoe, senior family counsel for the Office of the Chief Justice, Superior Court of Justice; and senior program director Helena Birt, a private family law practitioner.

For more information about Ontario’s Family Law Limited Scope Services Project, contact Jean-Paul Bevilacqua, assistant director of the Winkler Institute and director of the Osgoode Mediation Clinic, at JBevilacqua@osgoode.yorku.ca.