From Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan
With funding from the Department of Justice, Canada PLEA has developed two resources to directly address legal information needs during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond. The first is a series of “how to” videos for users of Family Law Saskatchewan’s online interactive tools (Form Wizard and Agreement Maker). Family Law Saskatchewan has a number of components that make it uniquely accessible for individuals dealing with family breakdown without the assistance of a lawyer. However, because of the interactive nature of the tools it is not possible to browse the tools and see how they work and what is involved. The same features that make the tools very effective, such as every step being tailored to the individual user, also make it hard for people unfamiliar with this type of technology to make the decision to use the Form Wizard or Agreement Maker.
These videos allow us to address this issue even in the absence of in-person sessions and allow us to assist people across Saskatchewan for whom in-person sessions were not readily available, such as those living in smaller or remote communities. These videos show people screen–by-screen how the tool works and also provide assistance at common points of confusion such as when people are choosing what type of case to start, creating an Affidavit or selecting a date for a chambers appearance.
The second resource we have created to respond to legal information needs during the pandemic, also available on the Family Law Saskatchewan site, is a guided pathway for individuals who are experiencing intimate partner violence that can be used to create a safety plan online. This tool allows this audience to assess their own risk and outlines immediate, intermediate and longer-term options for safety while providing up-to-date information about help that is available in their community and plain language legal information about the law in this area. For a variety of reasons at-risk people may be unable or unwilling to seek in-person help and this online tool would provide support to this vulnerable and often isolated segment of the population without them having to leave their home.
In addition to these resources to address the need for remote access to tools and legal information PLEA, with funding from the Department of Justice Canada, has created resources to assist people navigating the recent changes to family law. With these changes people experiencing family breakdown have been dealing with new and often unfamiliar concepts. Terms that had been used for decades, such as custody and access, have been replaced along with new rules for relocation and other reforms.
In response to this PLEA has created a comprehensive printed handbook that covers all aspects of family law from who are considered to be the parents of a child, in this age of assisted reproductive technologies, to detailed explanations of the terms parenting time and decision-making, to the new criteria for determining the best interests of the child. In addition to focusing on the new laws surrounding parenting the handbook explains court processes, the use of agreements to resolve family law issues and early family law dispute resolution mechanisms. This same information is also available in web format on the Family Law Saskatchewan site.