An insider look at some of the challenges Alberta families are facing right now from a family lawyer on the frontlines of the justice system.
For many Albertans, Family Day is a time to connect and appreciate time spent with loved ones. But this isn’t the case for all.
Sadly, there are families that will spend their holiday navigating the legal system.
“We typically see more child custody disputes leading up to family holidays,” explained Elizabeth Turner, a Legal Aid Alberta (LAA) family lawyer based in Edmonton.
At Legal Aid Alberta, our seasoned family law lawyers represent Albertans in courts across the province and find real, lasting resolutions to legal challenges that let them get on with their lives. They are working hard on the frontlines of family and child welfare cases every day—and things can get especially busy around holidays.
And it is no surprise that COVID-19 has only made things worse.
Because of the pandemic, almost everyone is having to wait longer for their case to be heard in court or resolved. All Albertans with outstanding legal matters have experienced ongoing delays in family courts. Many matters have been adjourned, sometimes multiple times.
In the last year, the coronavirus has affected almost every aspect of family life.
Turner said she is seeing family court cases involving vaccine conflict, where one parent is advocating for their child to be vaccinated, while the other disagrees.
But there’s a darker side as well.
“Unfortunately, right now, many of our files involve family violence in some capacity,” said Turner. “With that we might see an individual having to flee domestic abuse or a situation where a child has been taken into protective custody.”
With public health measures requiring people to stay home, many individuals end up trapped inside with an abusive partner or family member.
As mandates and restrictions start to lift, individuals may find it easier to get in contact with LAA to help because there’s not someone constantly watching their every move.
“Someone who has an abusive spouse working from home who is now going back into the office might be able to more easily access resources to help them escape domestic violence,” explained Turner.
Turner also mentioned that people in need of an emergency protection order are given top priority at Legal Aid Alberta.
Assistance with emergency protection orders can be provided by calling 780-422-9222 in Edmonton and 403-297-5260 in Calgary. If you live outside of these areas, call the police at any time or visit your nearest courthouse during business hours.
Individuals looking to apply for legal aid to help with a family law issue can call the LAA Contact Centre at 1-866-845-3425.
About Legal Aid Alberta
Legal Aid Alberta is a not-for-profit organization that provides legal representation and support for Albertans facing legal issues.
LAA provides legal services to clients in support of fairness in Alberta’s justice system – services that help ensure Albertans in all circumstances can understand and defend their legal rights.