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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Th​e Initiative​

​​​​​​​Overview​​​ | ​​Our Outcome Statement​ | ​Our Objectives​​ | ​​​Our Guiding Principles​ | ​​​​Our History​

 

O​verview​​

 

What is the Reforming the Family Justice System Initiative?

Families who are separating face many challenges, from parenting decisions to financial questions to relationship challenges. These challenges are compounded by a family justice system that is complex, costly and adversarial in nature.  The tensions – and the adversarial nature of the legal issues – often lead families to become bitterly opposed on these issues. And children suffer as a result.

Recognizing the need for change, the Reforming the Family Justice System (RFJS) initiative has brought together collaborators from the courts, government, dispute resolution, the legal community, social and health organizations, educators, researchers and other professionals who agree that collective action is needed to bring about change.

The RFJS initiative is committed to working collaboratively to effect system-wide change in the family justice system. The collaborators are motivated by a desire to help Alberta families settle their disputes in ways that won't necessarily involve litigation, that they can afford, and that protect the needs of their children.

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Our Outcome Statement​ 

 

What do we hope to achieve?

The desired outcome for the RFJS initiative is that Alberta's family justice system will be open, responsive, cost-effective and will put the needs of children and families first while assisting families with the early and final resolution of disputes.

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Our Objectives​​​

 

How will we get there? 

Three objectives have been agreed upon for the RFJS to achieve this outcome:

  1. Improve awareness, coordination, and availability of a wide range of services that support children and families, including information resources, legal resources, related health and social services, prevention assistance, and resolution services.

  2. Develop less adversarial court processes for matters that cannot be resolved without adjudication. This will include a review of court procedures and the structures of family courts.

  3. Ensure that, in addition to those services available when families first seek assistance, there are post-resolution processes and services available to support children and their families to successfully resolve any new challenges that arise after they have achieved resolution. ​

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​Our Guiding Principles​​​

 

What guides us?

The RFJS initiative has adopted the six guiding principles that came out of the national Action Committee reports:

  1. Put the public first;

  2. Collaborate and coordinate;

  3. Prevent, educate, and simplify;

  4. Make coherent, proportional, and sustainable;

  5. Take action;

  6. Focus on outcomes.

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Our History​​

 

Where did this initiative come from?

In 2013, the national Action Committee on Access to Justice in Civil and Family Matters released a series of reports aimed at improving access to justice and focusing the attention and energies of those working in the justice system on significant recommendations for change. Two of these reports provide the foundation for the RFJS – Meaningful Change for Family Justice:  Beyond Wise Words and Responding Early, Responding Well: Access to Justice through the Early Resolution Services Sector.

In November of 2013, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General hosted the Joint Action Forum on Civil and Family Justice, bringing together about 100 people from a wide range of justice system stakeholder groups to begin a conversation on what we could do to improve our civil and family justice system. One of the meeting participants, Justice Andrea Moen, Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta, had recently returned from a study leave which focused on brain development in children, looking particularly at the impact of stress arising during family breakdown, and was working with the three courts on an initiative to improve front-line services based on the recommendations in the Action Committee reports. At the Joint Action Forum, Justice Moen and Lynn Varty, Assistant Deputy Minister, Justice and Solicitor General, agreed to co-convene an initiative that would adopt the Action Committee reports, focusing on reforms to the family justice system in Alberta.

Since then, the initiative has grown to include almost 200 collaborators from all walks of the family justice system. The conversations among our collaborators began in April 2014, and are beginning to take shape.  We have organized the 44 Action Committee recommendations into 6 key areas of focus:

  1. Early resolution of disputes, shifting the focus from adversarial processes to early resolution.

  2. Education and information for families (legal, financial, social, relationships, etc.)

  3. Research and evaluation into the operation and administration of the family justice system

  4. Education for family law lawyers, law students and paralegals

  5. Legal advice and representation for parents and children

  6. The structure of and procedures in family courts

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