Day in the Life of an IRC
Written by: IRC Meagan Bensadoun
We are 17 months now into the pandemic, and I am writing this blog post from home remotely.
There have been many changes in everyone’s day to day lives, and these changes are certainly coming to light in the world of Family Law.
This post highlights some of the “pandemic trends” that I have noticed in the role of the Information Referral Coordinator.
Phone lines are open 9 am – 5pm
Calls for information about separation and divorce have increased a lot. Family issues may have always been present, but with normal (whatever that is) life, there were more distractions and escapes from them.
Enter Covid-19, and there weren’t so many distractions from problems at home. While there are many beautiful stories of the pandemic bringing families closer, IRCs are seeing more families in distress.
Adapting to a new normal
Creating a new (and now very efficient) system of hearing matters online, naturally, took a little bit of time. Existing matters were put on hold while a slew of new applications were coming in. At one point, the average wait time for a first appearance was 8 months or more. Many cannot afford a lawyer to negotiate agreements.
Even with the expansion of legal innovation including unbundled and lump sum fees, legal costs can be unmanageable for many clients we talk to. Our callers are dealing with a lot, including employment uncertainty, schooling challenges and more. Few can also find the time to allocate time, energy and money to litigation.
Family Mediation is here to help
This alternative dispute resolution process has helped many separating families make new agreements and modify existing agreements or court orders. Parents can mediate parenting time, decision making and child or spousal support.
”Off-site” mediation services funded by MAG are subsidized based on a sliding fee scale reflective of each party’s income and number of dependents. We have seen an increase in the number of clients seeking this service to resolve family disputes in an empowering, cost effective and time efficient manner.
In court mediation is free
Those with court files can access free mediation services. Mediation takes place on the day you are in court, before your court date or after your court date. It is available for: first appearance, motions, conferences, pre-trials, trials and Dispute Resolution Officer meetings (in the SCJ).
During Covid-19 we are using Zoom for onsite mediation. We schedule mediations at a time convenient to both parties. Parties are being referred to onsite mediation by the first appearance clerk, a judge or a lawyer. Many clients choose to mediate without any referral.
We have adapted our service delivery to ensure that mediation clients can still access advice from Duty Counsel where available.
Free and Affordable Community Resources
Mental Health concerns have been a prominent issue throughout the pandemic, again leading to an increased demand for our services. I have been very impressed with how adaptable services have been with the changes to remote service.
Counselling services and support workers have made a transition to online and over the phone, and service providers have really put an emphasis on availability.
Our IRCs at the Family Law Information Centres are well versed in the community resources available. We are happy to speak with any caller to assess which services may be able to best assist them. And most of these resources, are either at no cost, or on a sliding scale, similar to mediation fees.
Need Help? Contact an IRC Today!
If you have any questions about mediation, legal resources, or need other help with your family law matter, please contact one of our IRCs. Although we cannot give legal advice and cannot help parties complete their court forms, we can walk you through the process. Our IRCs can also assist with domestic violence resource referrals, legal advice referrals, information on the court process, mental health resource referrals and information on Legal Aid Ontario.