A code of conduct for child-focused family lawyers

By Yves Faguy April 18, 201818 April 2018

A code of conduct for child-focused family lawyers

Nicholas Bala, Patricia Hebert and Rachel Birnbaum, in a recently published Canadian Bar Review article, make the case for developing a proper code of conduct for family lawyers – one that would more clearly articulate their obligations towards the children of their parent clients.  In B.C., John-Paul Boyd and others have also been working to develop such guidelines. The authors take the view that too much emphasis on zealous representation in the current system, while appropriate in criminal matters and even in some civil cases, is usually inappropriate in family disputes. And more often than not it can be detrimental to their interests:

Clients need to be reminded that “divorce is not a zero sum game;” they may both be better off with a fair, nuanced settlement that takes account of their circumstances than a regime imposed by a court. This may be most apparent in regard to economic issues, where there may be tax advantages that can only be achieved through negotiation and a joint filing. Although sometimes less obvious to separated parents, the plans that they jointly make are more likely to meet their circumstances and needs than ones made for them by a judge; separated parents and their children are usually better off if they agree to a substantial sharing of responsibilities and time with the children than if one parent has sole care and responsibility.

The authors also discuss the implications for research in the field:

Little is known about how family lawyers in Canada view their role and professional responsibilities, what type of advice they give their clients about parenting or settlement, and how they actually manage their relationships with their clients and other lawyers. More research needs to  be done on how family lawyers in Canada perceive their roles and actually conduct their practices.

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