Report from the Past Chair

  • October 08, 2013

The CBA National Family Law Section is made up of lawyer representatives from each province and territory and an elected executive. Together we have made numerous accomplishments this year for the benefit of all family law lawyers and families across Canada. The work of our Section is essential to the legal profession, as an ally and advocate to the profession and guardian of the rule of law. We are very grateful to the CBA for offering us a venue to exercise our passion, and inspire others to join the CBA.

Legislative reform remains one of our priorities. In conjunction with our annual fall meeting, the entire executive meets with representatives from the Department of Justice where presentations are made jointly and individually regarding law and policy issues by both the Section and DOJ with discussions following. Despite mostly unfunded attendance by the Section, 18 of our members attended, demonstrating our level of commitment. The new meeting format requires the DOJ and us to organize, research and present, allowing the Section an enhanced leadership role to influence law and policy. Following each meeting, our goal is to communicate the information to each member of the Section.

With DOJ funding, the Tax Toolkit Committee of the Section has been liaising and corresponding with representatives from the CRA and the Department of Finance to develop an online tax toolkit to educate Canadian family law lawyers regarding tax treatment following separation. In addition to educating members and Canadians about changes to the various credits, benefits and deductions, we also seek to improve the tax laws to make them fairer for Canadian families going through separation. Influencing and changing CRA tax policy is a difficult task and our in-person meetings allow us a venue to challenge the flawed or contradictory assumptions and reasoning surrounding policies such as the deduction of legal fees, the eligible dependent credit (formerly equivalent-to-spouse), and the definition of separation.

The Section is committed to innovative ways to communicate relevant information to all Section members in a timely manner. For example, this year members were sent an email link inviting them to participate in a poll on access enforcement conducted by the National Judicial Institute. CBA fiscal resources were not used, although our membership list enabled thoughtful participation by members to give direct input to the judiciary regarding best practices for judges in these cases. The results of the survey have been communicated to the judiciary with the intention of improving custody and access enforcement, a major historical problem for separated parents. The Section will also continue to improve its communication with the American Bar Association Family Law Section through a closer working relationship. One of our past Chairs, Grant Gold, has served as our Liaison with the ABA for several years.

The Section publishes two annual newsletters used by the Section to inform our members of the issues arising in various jurisdictions using authors from all jurisdictions. The newsletter educates our members with current practice issues and latest trends and social science research. Influence and leadership goals are met as the content of the newsletters includes special topics to advance the interests of the legal profession, bringing best practices, practice management, new developments and insights to our members. Publication in both official languages promotes cohesion to build an understanding of the roles of CBA in one nation-wide association.

Our spring 2013 Executive Meeting was held in Calgary, where we participated in their mediation conference and met with the local section to give information and obtain feedback on our many initiatives. We have a history of rotating our spring meeting around the country, to showcase the benefit of CBA membership around the country. The Section prepared a collaborative law presentation, Navigating Impasse in Negotiations, for the Canadian Legal Conference (CLC) in Saskatoon in August, 2013. The Section advocated for the creation of a new Children’s Law Committee, formed to bridge the gap between all sections for children’s issues. The Children’s Law Committee also made a presentation at the CLC on representing children.

Our various sub-committees work throughout the year:

  • The Best Interests of the Child Committee gave feedback regarding reshaping the DOJ’s new parenting plan website and will give input on all DOJ family initiatives. The Committee is further studying whether to recommend federal and provincial/territorial legislation with relocation guidelines in mobility cases. The Committee remains active in opposing a legislative change making shared parenting a presumption. The Section has a variety of materials and a strategy to support the existing legislation requiring the best interests of every child as the only consideration in custody and access decisions.
  • The Bankruptcy Committee is consulting with the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Section regarding possible resolutions to avoid the Schreyer bankruptcy issue.
  • The Child Support Committee is considering a resolution regarding support of a new formula to calculate child support to accommodate the increased costs of shared parenting. The Section has also proposed to revisit concerns with the policy, program and legislation governing inter-jurisdictional support orders.
  • The Mediation Franchise Committee is working on a brochure to post on our website and to give to clients as a practice tool to ensure the public and lawyers understand the value of independent legal advice in family law agreements. The brochure is aimed at advising lawyers of their ethical duty and insurance responsibility and differentiating our services from mediation franchises.

The Section works for and on behalf of Canadian families and family law lawyers. The best interests of children are at the core of our work. Your membership in the provincial or territorial family law section includes membership in the Section. You can contact the Section by contacting anyone on the executive on our CBA National Family Law Section webpage.You can also participate by becoming a regional or territorial representative or running for election as the executive member in our annual election.

About the Author

Cori L. McGuire is a family law practitioner in Kelowna.