New Handbook Helping P.E.I. Residents Represent Themselves in Family Court

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A non-profit organization in Charlottetown has launched a legal guidebook to help Prince Edward Islander who choose to represent themselves in family court.

Community Legal Information published its free 70-page book, How to go to family court without a lawyer: A handbook, April. 27.

Emma Chilton, a publication manager at the non-profit, said the number of people representing themselves in family court is increasing, and they have received several inquiries regarding the process.

“We’ve been aware of the need for this resource for a while.”

The book can help while readying for a legal case, with or without a lawyer, Chilton added.

“This handbook could be useful for anyone going to court, even if you decide to hire a lawyer in the end or you’re accepted for legal aid. This handbook could be a great starting point for understanding the process of going to court.”

Being expressive with legal terms is hard

Chilton said a majority of people struggle to represent themselves in court because of legal jargon.

“For you and me it’s much harder to really articulate ourselves, and the needs of our children, and why what we’re asking for makes the most sense for a family,” she said.

“Lawyers spend a lot of time training and immersing themselves in the language used by the court.”

There is no any issue representing yourself in court, but without assistance the process can be long and frustrating, according to Chilton.

The handbook guides readers through how the legal process works, and provides tips on legal writing and research, Chilton said.

“It really does a higher level, step-by-step through what a trial looks like, what a hearing looks like, when resolutions can happen and what they look like.”

Chilton added that the handbook has been reviewed by seven legal professionals across the Island.

Need for legal literacy

Thus far, reviews have been positive, as expected, Chilton said.

“We were expecting this handbook to be useful to a wide range of people but we’ve been interested to find that people seeking legal information about court processes other than family court have picked it up.”

Chilton urges Islanders to inform themselves on their legal rights, and be empowered to face a judge.

“I hope that people take the steps to inform themselves and make decisions based on what they’ve learnt,” Chilton said.

A digital handbook can be downloaded online, or a physical copy can be obtained from the Community Legal Information office.

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