Family breakdown is common and brings with it many challenges for parents and their children. These challenges are compounded by the current family justice system, which has many gaps in needed services and is too slow, too complex and too expensive. Not only does the system not meet the needs of the people it is meant to serve, the legal adversarial processes often do more harm than good. Up to now, our family justice system has focused on legal solutions through lawyers and the courts. But family justice issues are primarily social and relationship problems that contain a legal element. Families in separation need well-rounded solutions that support them through the entire process of their break-up and, most importantly, ensure that children are safe and able to thrive.
We need a new approach to address the needs of families.
The family justice system is represented by many passionate and dedicated people, but they are frustrated by their inability to effectively assist the families they encounter every day. We now understand that this is a "wicked problem" which is difficult to define, complex and with responsibility divided among many different organizations and sectors. No single organization, whether the courts or government or a social agency, can address the problems alone. We recognize that collective action is needed for systemic change to occur.
In late 2013, we volunteered to lead a new initiative called "Reforming the Family Justice System" (RFJS). The changes that we want to achieve through RFJS require a truly collaborative approach, engaging a broadly defined group of family justice system partners. So, we brought together more than 200 organizations and individuals from across the province and from all parts of the system, to work with us on the problem. Their passion equals ours, and we know that by working together, we have the potential to change the system … to improve family outcomes.
We know change is possible. We are up for the challenge, and the journey has begun.
—Co-Convenors: Honourable Justice Andrea Moen, Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Lynn Varty, Assistant Deputy Minister of Resolution and Court Administration Services and Anthony G. Young, QC, Bencher, The Law Society of Alberta.