Changing Professional Obligations for Family Law Lawyers Under the New Provisions of the Divorce Act

In this presentation we will briefly review the Divorce Act amendments, focusing on new duties placed on the parties, judges and particularly lawyers. In particular, we will discuss how practicing lawyers must also follow the ethical duties as set by their provincial or territorial regulator and this is often consistent with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada Model Code of Professional Conduct. What lawyers may notice, however, is that all of these duties conflict and present additional challenges, particularly when dealing with claims of family violence and the rights of children. We will review cases around the country interpreting the scope of the new duties on lawyers as well as the responses to the ethical issues lawyers may consider in the context of family violence cases. We will conclude by posing recommendations that may be considered to reconcile the legislated and ethical duties of the family law lawyer today.