Law Society of Upper Canada

Law Society of Upper Canada

June 25, 2012 17:15 ET

Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of the Unified Family Court

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - June 25, 2012) - A plaque was unveiled at the Hamilton Family Court House this afternoon to mark the 35th anniversary of the Unified Family Court in Ontario. The Hamilton Family Court was the first Unified Family Court in Canada, beginning as a pilot project in 1977.

Prior to the creation of the Unified Family Court, a family in crisis needed to deal separately with as many as four different courts. Beginning in 1977 at the Hamilton Family Court, one judge in one court could determine all the issues in a family law dispute, whether a question of divorce, property, separation, or the custody of children. The same court has jurisdiction to hear charges against minors, proceedings for the protection, adoption and guardianship of children, or criminal charges such as spousal assault.

Since the opening of Hamilton Family Court, similar courts have been established in 16 other locations across Ontario. The founding judges of the Hamilton Family Court, appointed in 1977, were Justice David Steinberg, and the late Justices John VanDuzer and Patrick Gravely. Justice Steinberg, along with Mrs. Joan VanDuzer and Mrs. Ruth Gravely were on hand to unveil the plaque today.

Also in attendance, and making brief remarks, were The Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada; The Honourable John Gerretsen, Attorney General of Ontario; Chief Justice Warren Winkler; Chief Justice Heather Smith; Chief Justice Annemarie Bonkalo; and, Laurie Pawlitza, the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

"When families break down, there can be serious repercussions not only for the parents and children involved, but also for society as a whole," said Minister Nicholson. "35 years ago, the Government of Canada collaborated with the province of Ontario to establish the first Unified Family Court. This initiative is an approach which contributes to less adversarial and more sustainable outcomes for families and children."

"When the Unified Family Court was first established in Hamilton 35 years ago, it represented a new approach which would make the family court more responsive to the needs of children and families. The needs of children always come first. Today, the legacy of the first Unified Family Court lives on in 17 jurisdictions in Ontario," said The Honourable John Gerretsen, Attorney General for Ontario.

"Unified Family Court has proven to offer significant benefits in improving access to justice for Ontarians with family law needs, particularly for families and children," said Laurie Pawlitza, the Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

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