What If I Want to Go to Family Court but Cannot Afford or Do Not Want to Pay Legal Fees?

The cost of family law litigation in Ontario has been increasing to the point where between 50 – 80% of family law litigants are representing themselves in court. As a result, the courts are increasingly required to assist self-represented litigants with matters that would normally be addressed by a lawyer. What are the other options?

Unbundled services are legal services provided by a lawyer where either a flat fee or an hourly rate is charged for particular services somewhere between one-time advice and full representation. Unbundled services can be made up of one or more of the following:

  1. Limited scope capacity: In this type of service, the client remains responsible for all tasks and steps of their legal matter but can receive advice, feedback, assistance and other support from the lawyer for one or more specific tasks.

Counsel might, for example, be retained only to:

  • assist with drafting court documents;
  • assist with a particular part of a case such as a motion or conference;
  • represent the client during a particular step in a case, such as at a case conference or a motion;
  • attend with the client at mediation; or
  • perform legal research for a particular stage of the case.

For example, John may want help with drafting his court documents but he wants to represent himself in court and when dealing with the other party. The lawyer can assist John with preparing his court documents such as Applications, Affidavits, Financial Statements, Confirmation Forms, Motions, etc.

  1. Legal coaching: A lawyer can also assist a litigant either through a portion, or the entirety, of a court proceeding. With legal coaching, the client drafts all documents and represents him/herself with the assistance of a legal coach “behind the scenes” who will provide guidance and advice.

For example, John has filed his court documents and is scheduled for a Case Conference with a judge. He needs help in knowing the Family Law Rules, deadlines for filing documents, even how to address the judge in court and the etiquette of courtroom procedure. John can go to a lawyer for coaching on all of these issues, either on a one-time basis or as the case proceeds. The lawyer has not only a wealth of knowledge about the law and Family Law Rules, but also the unwritten rules and negotiation strategies. A lawyer can also provide a combination of limited scope and legal coaching services to suit the client’s specific needs.  For example, John can hire a lawyer to draft his Application and other documents, and to provide coaching about attending a Case Conference or mediation.

If you need more information and assistance with unbundled family law services, please contact Rasmussen Starr Ruddy LLP, Melody MacDonell, 613-232-1830.



This article is provided as an information service by Rasmussen Starr Ruddy LLP. It is distributed with the understanding that it does not constitute legal advice or establish a solicitor-client relationship by way of any information contained herein. The contents are intended for general information purposes only and under no circumstances can be relied upon for legal decision-making. Please consult with us and obtain a written opinion concerning the specifics of your particular situation.