From the Toronto Star of October 28, 2010:
A judge has ordered two warring parents to read three books on communicating, parenting and divorce and write a one-page summary of an insight they gain from each.
Ontario Superior Court Justice David Price told the separated couple, who are bickering over money and access to children, that the books “may improve their ability to communicate and resolve some of the issues that are troubling them.”
Interestingly, Justice Price sits in Brampton, Ontario, which together with Milton, Ontario has since June 2010 been the site of a pilot project, the Mandatory Information Program.
The program helps families learn about their options to find resolutions without going to court and steps they need to take should they decide to proceed through the court system. It also helps them understand the impact of separation on children and identifies resources available to help them through separation and divorce.
In Brampton and Milton, the program applies to family law cases started after May 3, 2010. I’m inferring that Justice Price made this order because the couple’s action had started before May 3, and as such they were not required to attend the program.
More important though is that the Ontario Attorney General has decided to expand this pilot project to all 17 sites in the province with a Superior Court of Justice (Family Court). This high court level has jurisdiction over both family actions brought under provincial legislation (the Family Law Act, the Children’s Law Reform Act) and under federal legislation (the Divorce Act). The program will apply to all family law actions begun as of December 1, 2010.
More information about the Mandatory Information Program:
Parties are not permitted to proceed to the next step in their proceeding unless they have obtained a certificate of attendance. Judges, however, can make exceptions in cases of urgency, hardship or for other compelling reasons.
A lawyer and a mediator, social worker or mental health professional who volunteer their time to the project present the sessions.
Appointments are scheduled at the time the originating document is issued at the counter. The applicant and respondent are given separate dates, notices are generated from the court computer system, and the applicant is required to serve the respondent with the appointment date along with the originating process. Parties can contact the court to reschedule the assigned appointment if it is not convenient.
In Ottawa, where I live, the program will be offered in both English and French.
Kudos to Attorney General Chris Bentley!