Family Law Screening Officers to Strengthen Response to Family Violence and Improve Access to Justice

Manjit Sing

The Ministry of Justice and Attorney General is welcoming to the Court of King’s Bench new Family Law Screening Officers who will support families experiencing separation and divorce.

“This will help citizens gain better support within the justice system,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said “It will promote family safety and reduce the stress of often adversarial family law proceedings.”

The pilot, which started on October 1, 2022, will see one Family Law Screening Officer located in Regina and one in Saskatoon. The officers will review new family court applications to ensure all required documents have been filed and procedural prerequisites have been met, including family dispute resolution and parent education.

The Family Law Screening Officers are also trained to screen for family violence and to identify possible risk factors and warning signs. If family violence is suspected, they will guide individuals to the appropriate resources, including local community supports, such as Family Service Regina or Saskatoon, the Children Exposed to Violence Program, or shelters.

In addition, the screening officers will play a vital role in a new Judicial Case Conference process being implemented by the Court of King’s Bench, with the support of the Court Services Division of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General. As of November 1, 2022, for most family law applications in the judicial centres of Saskatoon and Regina, parties will be required to participate in a Judicial Case Conference prior to proceeding to Chambers.

“The Court of King’s Bench views the Judicial Case Conference Process as a way to address efficiency concerns and to reduce potential harm caused by family conflict that can be exacerbated by the justice system,” Chief Justice Martel D. Popescul said. “The cornerstone of the process is to engage in triage and case management before a court application and affidavit material is served and filed. It is an opportunity for parties to discuss areas of consensus, issues in dispute, and options for settlement before affidavits are exchanged.”

The Family Law Screening program builds on projects spearheaded by the ministry in recent years in the areas of family law and court modernization, including the Family Matters Program, the implementation of early family dispute resolution, and the expanded use of video technology in court proceedings.

Information relating to the Judicial Case Conference process can be found in Family Law Practice Directive #7 on the Courts of Saskatchewan website at https://sasklawcourts.ca/kings-bench/rules-practice-directives/.

To support this pilot project, the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General will receive approximately $279,000 in 2022-23 from the federal government as part of the Justice Partnership and Innovation Program and $273,000 in subsequent years until 2025-26.

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