Children Reading BookIn the current era of Facebook and Twitter, separating couples are increasingly turning to online resources for information and support following the breakdown of their relationship. Without leaving their homes, mothers and fathers can investigate one another, vent about their exes, and obtain “expert” advice from friends and strangers.  While some of the fallout of this relatively new phenomenon is that it can inflame the conflict between parents, there are positive ramifications as well.

For little or no cost clients can educate themselves with a resource that parents may accept as more credible than other forms of information.  Research and advice from around the world is available at one’s fingertips on issues such as the emotional fallout of divorce, determining the appropriate quantum of child support and putting children’s needs first.  Lawyers can utilize the World Wide Web as an educational tool; a place where clients can find moral support; a forum where practical issues such as communication can be addressed. What follows is a brief review of several sites that lawyers can use to help their clients, and unrepresented parties can use to help themselves. Many sites provide information in English and French.

  1. Legal Aid Ontario
    On March 1, 2011, Legal Aid Ontario launched a new online training program (the “FLIP”) that is designed to assist adults whose marriages or relationships are breaking down.  The practical information provided by the program, which deals with all areas of relationship breakdown such as custody/access, child & spousal support and property issues, is also highly relevant for lawyers practicing in the area of family law.  The section that deals with domestic violence provides important information to abuse victims. There are 18 narrated components to the FLIP, as well as a comprehensive list of resources and links. It is anticipated that the FLIP will ultimately be available in several languages.
  2. Ontario Court Forms
    Both the Ontario Family Law Court forms as well as the family guides are available online. The forms are available in Microsoft Word (2002) format, as well as Adobe PDF.  The site provides a chart, by rule number, of all relevant forms.  The Ontario Court Forms Assistant enables litigants to complete certain forms on a step-by-step basis. Easy access to government publications such as the step-by-step guide to Ontario Family Court procedures are available here.
  3. The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
    The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts is a multi-disciplinary organization whose membership includes lawyers, judges, psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors and mediators.  While events are designed for professionals, the Ontario Chapter’s website lists various resources for parents and children. AFCC and Sesame Street have recently produced a divorce toolkit for parents, children and caregivers that is available on-line.  Another excellent tool (produced by the Arizona Chapter of the AFCC), entitled the Co-Parenting Communication Guide, provides practical advice to improve parental interaction and decision-making.
  4. Up To Parents
    This website provides interactive articles, videos, and exercises.  The site utilizes a “cooperative” approach to separation that is child-focused.  There are distinct sections in the site that are designed for parents or professionals.  In addition, the website provides links to two related sites: While We Heal , which is designed for parents trying to save their marriage, and Proud To Parent, for separating parents who never married.
  5. Family Matters
    According to the description, this website is “an online TV program with a focus on a multiplicity of issues affecting contemporary North American life, with a particular emphasis on the interplay between relationships and the justice system: internet dating, addictions, prenups, mental health, adoption, surrogate parenting, same-sex relationships, multicultural relationships, parenting after separation and divorce, mediation, child neglect and abuse, child and spousal support – and this is just the tip of the iceberg!” Justice Brownstone’s insight from the duo perspectives of judge and author (of best-selling book, Tug of War), can assist family law clients to better understand topics such as the ramifications of conflict, and alternatives to litigation.
  6. Families Change
    This website was developed by the Justice Education Society of British Columbia to assist children, teenagers, parents and professionals to respond to separation and divorce.  The interactive section for children is particularly helpful during and immediately following the breakdown of their parents’ relationship or marriage. The cartoon-like approach is appealing, and the explanations are geared to the children’s ages and stages of development.
  7. Divorce Magazine
    This online version of the well-established Divorce magazine provides a wide range of articles for individuals faced with separation and divorce.  Over 50 articles are available on topics ranging from parenting, estates and dating after divorce. A free monthly newsletter is emailed to anyone interested in receiving the publication.
  8. Our Family Wizard and  Google Calendar
    These two websites enable parents to communicate and plan their children’s schedule. Our Family Wizard charges a user fee and is very user-friendly.  In addition to the calendar, the site assists parents to deal with issues such as expenses, and provides the family with an online storage bank for data such as immunization records and school information.  The Google calendar is free and can be accessed from all smart phones and computers.  The calendar can be set up so that both parents can make additions, deletions and changes.  Invitations and other notifications are received by email, and messages can be tracked to ensure that they are received.  Once emails are opened, appointments are automatically added to Microsoft Outlook if the recipient utilizes that program.
  9. Canlii
    Family law clients, particularly those engaged in litigation may benefit from having the opportunity to review legal decisions.  Canlii is a database of decisions from across all of the provinces, at all levels of courts and including certain tribunals (such as the Child and Family Services Review Board). Legal precedents can be used to persuade clients about the reasonableness of various positions, and can be used in Court to support legal arguments.
  10. Online information About Community Resources
    The World Wide Web is also an excellent resource for programs taking place in local communities.  In Toronto,  for example, separating parents can gain information about counselling and other resources at many area services:

To learn more about your options, contact Andrea Himel today
(416) 551-8752 | andrea@himelmediation.com