Projects

Supporting the Health of Survivors of
Family Violence in Family Law Proceedings | Soutenir la santé des survivants de violence familiale dans les procédures de droit familial

This project is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada and is designed to address the unique need of survivors of family violence within the family justice system. Canada’s research centres on violence against women will initiate, host and support a Community of Practice (CoP) comprised of family violence experts, survivors, family lawyers, researchers, mental health, and social service professionals .

Ce projet, financé par l’Agence de santé publique du Canada, est conçu pour répondre aux besoins particuliers des survivants de la violence familiale au sein du système de justice familiale. Les centres de recherche canadiens sur la violence envers les femmes lanceront, accueilleront et soutiendront une communauté de pratique (CdP) composée d’experts en violence familiale, de survivants, d’avocats de la famille, de chercheurs, de professionnels de la santé mentale et des services sociaux.

The overarching goal of the project is to enhanced support to survivors of violence through the family law system by increasing opportunities for family law practitioners to have training, guidance and resources to support trauma-informed practice, and to improve coordination of services that will enhance the safety and wellbeing of all parties.

L’objectif général du projet est d’améliorer le soutien aux survivants de la violence par le biais du système de droit de la famille en augmentant les possibilités pour les praticiens du droit de la famille d’avoir une formation, des conseils et des ressources pour soutenir une pratique tenant compte des traumatismes, et d’améliorer la coordination des services qui amélioreront la sécurité et le bien-être de toutes les parties.

Major goals for the project (November 2020 and November 2023) include the following:

  1. Foster communication, collaboration and build relationship among experts from the family violence and family law sectors; 
  2. Develop and disseminate evidence-based guidance and resources to address issues crossing these areas of concern;
  3. Provide learning opportunities to build capacity of practitioners in the field of violence prevention and family law; 
  4. Promote research and evaluation initiatives to examine effective strategies for helping victims, perpetrators and their children receive the interventions they need from family court proceedings;
  5. Support sustained knowledge mobilization in the field.

Les principaux objectifs du projet (novembre 2020 et novembre 2023) sont les suivants :

  1. Favoriser la communication, la collaboration et l’établissement de relations entre les experts des secteurs de la violence familiale et du droit de la famille ;
  2. Élaborer et diffuser des conseils et des ressources fondés sur des données probantes pour traiter les questions qui traversent ces domaines de préoccupation ;
  3. Fournir des opportunités d’apprentissage pour renforcer les capacités des praticiens dans le domaine de la prévention de la violence et du droit de la famille ;
  4. Promouvoir des initiatives de recherche et d’évaluation afin d’examiner les stratégies efficaces pour aider les victimes, les auteurs de violence et leurs enfants à recevoir les interventions dont ils ont besoin dans le cadre des procédures du tribunal de la famille ;
  5. Soutenir une mobilisation soutenue des connaissances dans le domaine.

Deliverables:

  1. Develop guidance and information resources for dealing with COVID-19 and family violence victims involved in custody and access disputes that respect regional differences, and diverse realities.
  2. Develop guidance and information resources on critical issues related to risk assessment, safety planning and risk management strategies for family violence victims in family court, critical issues related to risk assessment, safety planning and risk management strategies for family violence victims in family court.
  3. Develop guidance and information resources on trauma-informed interventions for family violence victims in family court.
  4. Regional and National webinars on issues around risk assessment and supervised access provided by team of legal and family violence experts together with survivor.

Produits livrables :

  1. Développer des directives et des ressources d’information pour traiter les COVID-19 et les victimes de violence familiale impliquées dans des conflits de garde et d’accès qui respectent les différences régionales et les diverses réalités.
  2. Élaborer des directives et des ressources d’information sur les questions critiques liées à l’évaluation des risques, à la planification de la sécurité et aux stratégies de gestion des risques pour les victimes de violence familiale dans les tribunaux de la famille, questions critiques liées à l’évaluation des risques, à la planification de la sécurité et aux stratégies de gestion des risques pour les victimes de violence familiale dans les tribunaux de la famille.
  3. Élaborer des directives et des ressources d’information sur les interventions axées sur les traumatismes pour les victimes de violence familiale dans les tribunaux de la famille.
  4. Webinaires régionaux et nationaux sur les questions relatives à l’évaluation des risques et à l’accès supervisé, organisés par une équipe d’experts en droit et en violence familiale, en collaboration avec un survivant.

Community of Practice Bulletins:

Issue No.1 – February 2021

Community of Practice Research Briefs:

Issue No. 1 – Supporting the health of survivors of family violence in family law proceedings 
Issue No. 2 – Why Can’t Everyone Just Get Along?: How BC’s family law system puts survivors in danger
Issue No. 3 – Coercive Control and Family Law
Issue No. 4. – A Review of the Recent Recommendations in Québec (English or French)
Issue No. 5. – The 2021 Divorce Act: Using Statutory Interpretation Principles to Support Substantive Equality for Women and Children (English or French)
Issue No. 6. – COVID-19, the Shadow Pandemic, and Access to Justice for Survivors of Domestic Violence Webinar – Please share your feedback with us on this research brief

Community of Practice Webinars:

Self-Represented Litigants and Family Violence: Making a Difficult Experience Even Worse June 15, 2021

Hosted by: Western University Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children

Presenters: Julie Macfarlane, The Honourable Mary Jo Nolan, The Honourable Lynda C. Templeton, Malcolm Bennett, and Julie Lee

Family court is filled with self-represented litigants – up to 50% across Canada and closer to 80% in urban centres. Those SRLs include individuals asking for restraining orders (there is no disaggregated data in Ontario) as well as those experiencing family violence seeking custody, access, child support etc.  US research (Kercin, 2015) shows that the outcomes for this second group are significantly worse for those without representation, which matches NSRLP data on systemically less favourable outcomes for SRLs than represented litigants. While Canadian data suggests similar levels of self-representation among men and women, NSRLP suggests that the way that courts treat women is often markedly different and subject to judicial stereotypes (NSRLP, 2018). We also see some examples of process abuse by controlling male partners (for example, continual reopening of child support and access) which suggests a possible relationship with family violence.

The many difficulties of self-representation (including stereotyping and stigmatizing by lawyers and judges) are further exacerbated by the personal experiences of those living with family violence, who often feel further traumatized by their court experience. The level of understanding among members of the Bench of the systemic issues facing those living with family violence and/or in an ongoing controlling relationship appears to remain low. Recent Australian research on family violence and self-represented litigants (Mangman et al 2020) makes a number of recommendations for further assistance for and protection of SRLs experiencing intimate partner violence including a ban on cross-exam by an alleged perpetrator of a victim (in Canada this only applies to those under 18), enhanced court safety measures, and further calls for enhanced training for judges and lawyers.

Finally, even with legal representation there are innumerable issues for the survivors of family violence in undertaking both civil and criminal proceedings and the trauma that is raised. “Going Public: A Survivors Journey from Grioef to Acyion” (Macfarlane, 2020) sets out a series of recommendations for addressing the worst of these systemic problems inside the legal system.

The Pandemic and Family Justice: Unequal Outcomes and Lack of Access to Justice April 29, 2021

Hosted by: Western University Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children

Presenters: Claire Houston, Rachel Birnbaum and Nicholas Bala

This webinar shared developing knowledge from a research project examining the reduction in access to Ontario’s family justice system due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from a survey of over 100 family justice professionals in Ontario highlight how the pandemic has affected families involved in the system. Certain groups including high conflict families, self-representing litigants, victims of intimate partner violence, children experiencing abuse and neglect, and families involved in the child welfare system have been disproportionately impacted by the reduction in family court access and related services since the onset of the pandemic. Innovative responses by family court and family justice professionals were discussed, along with recommendations for how these practices can be modified or adopted to better serve families involved in the family justice system. 

Healing Trauma: Gender, Trauma, and Paths of Healing in Family Law Disputes March 31, 2021

Hosted by: Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research

Presenters: Jenn Gorham, and Leland Maerz

Many family law lawyers have clients suffering from trauma due to domestic violence. The family court system often has expectations of witnesses that adversely affects not only the credibility of the trauma victim, but also their overall well-being during trial.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Ontario’s Court Related Services for Survivors of Family Violence March 9, 2021

Hosted by: Western University Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children

Presenters: Amanda Bruyns, Tim Kelly, Julie Lee, Janet Mosher, and AnnaLise Trudell

This webinar reviewed the impact of the pandemic in Ontario on survivors of family violence with a focus on access to specialized services. The presenters discussed the increase in violence and vulnerability of survivors as well as the challenges in accessing needed services. The pandemic has created significant barriers as well as some innovative service approaches. In particular, the webinar addressed services that often required as a part of family court proceedings such as supervised access, batterer intervention and parenting programs (PAR and Caring Dads), legal advice, counselling, and housing. 

COVID-19, the Shadow Pandemic, and Access to Justice for Survivors of Domestic Violence March 6, 2021

Hosted by: RESOLVE Manitoba

Presenters: Jennifer Koshan, Janet Mosher, Wanda Wiegers, Paula Ediger, and Zahra Hosseini

In this past webinar presenters, Jennifer Koshan, Janet Mosher, and Wanda Wiegers shared their research providing a preliminary assessment of the extent to which Canada’s early responses to the COVID-19 pandemic prioritized the safety of women and children. Following Jennifer Koshan, Janet Mosher, and Wanda Wiegers presentation, Paula Ediger and Zahra Hosseini discussed the risks and safety concerns that came with COVID-19 protocols and what families had been experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Why Can’t Everyone Just Get Along? How BC’s Family Law System Puts Survivors in Danger March 4, 2021

Hosted by: The FREDA Centre for Research on Violence Against Women and Children

Presenter: Haley Hrymak | Moderator: Margaret Jackson

The focus of this webinar was on Rise’s research results regarding the impacts the family court system had on survivors, particularly to their health. Further, this webinar focused on the recommendations on how we can improve the court system in BC, starting with mandatory family violence training for lawyers, judges and police, and the creation of a specialized family court designed to address the needs of people attending court with a family law matter, most importantly their own safety and well-being.

Bridging the Gap Between the Needs of Survivors of Family Violence and the Realities of Family Court, December 15, 2021

Hosted by: Western University Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children

Presenters: Pamela Cross and Dr. Linda Baker

This webinar addressed the challenges survivors of family violence face when seeking safety and support in the family court, barriers survivors face due to the nature of trauma they have suffered and the many demands of the adversarial system from a legal and psychological perspective, how court-related professionals and the system can become trauma informed and promising practices.

To learn more about the projects at each centre, click below:

en_CAEnglish (Canada)