Toronto’s New Domestic Violence Court
Individuals in Toronto, with concurrent family and criminal law matters, now have the option of having their issues managed by a single judge in Canada’s first-ever integrated domestic violence court.
Lead by Justice Waldman, the court opened June 10, 2011 at Toronto’s 311 Jarvis St. courthouse, where it will undergo a two-year trial run as a pilot project.
The court will deal with the same litigants and the same situations, but will no longer be two systems that operate independent and without cross-referencing one to the other.
For example, currently many bail orders made in criminal court affect access arrangements in family court, which leaves judges trying to interpret the bail order and how it might be a factor on the family law side.
After failing to uncover any easy ways to share information between family and criminal law judges, Waldman’s committee decided to look at other models. The search took them to the United States, where integrated domestic violence courts have been running for about a decade.
The new model may allow judges to accomplish a more holistic response to assisting the family, by having both the criminal and family cases dealt with independently, but by a single judge who is aware of all the issues in the case.
During the pilot project, the system will be populated by cases involving at least one litigant who qualifies for legal aid and with both parties consenting to transferring their matters to the new court.
However, the rules as they apply to each area of law will remain. The new court won’t administer trials, but will do everything up to a trial or pleading.