With the right resources UFC “beneficial,” says Kenneth Younie
By Kenneth Younie
At this year’s Family Law Summit the Attorney General of Ontario announced plans to finally expand the Unified Family Court (“UFC”) system across the province.
UFCs have been operational in several jurisdictions since the first branch opened in Hamilton in 1980 after several years of study. In jurisdictions without UFCs, which includes the City of Toronto, family law litigants and lawyers rely on two separate court systems – the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice – to find justice depending on their claims. Once the UFC system is operational, this will no longer be the case as all family law matters will be dealt with in one court by judges who only deal with family law matters on a daily basis.
While the benefits to the UFC system are apparent, my experience with the system has been varied. Most family law lawyers practicing in Toronto likely have experienced the UFC in Newmarket. Although it may be useful that litigants and lawyers do not have to worry about which level of court is required to advance their claims, the result appears to be a much more hectic and busy court, and one which is forced to make its own procedural rules in order to deal with the overflow. Litigants may become so frustrated with the delay that they wish to settle their cases at all costs, which is also encouraged by the court’s unique rules.
Settlement is obviously the goal in all family law cases; but lawyers realize that it is impossible to settle certain cases. When faced with such a case, the courts must be equipped to deal expeditiously in order to decide matters fairly and to preserve the integrity of the court.
So far, my experience with the UFC has been longer delays, less procedural fairness and less predictability between courts.
Even given my reservations above, I look forward to the expansion of the UFC in Ontario. If given the necessary resources to achieve justice as expeditiously as possible, it could only be beneficial to simplify family law litigation by combining the two current levels of court.