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Jamie Gillespie, Tyler Technologies

New online tool for parenting plans avoids cost, conflict: B.C. legal services society

Wednesday, September 04, 2019 @ 11:21 AM | By Ian Burns

Putting together a parenting plan in B.C. has gotten a bit easier.

The provincial Legal Services Society's (LSS) MyLawBC Family Resolution Centre is now allowing parents to craft their plan online. The centre is part of LSS’s MyLawBC service, which offers an interactive website that helps people solve a variety of legal problems ranging from family breakdown to missed mortgage payments. With the family resolution centre, couples can create a parenting plan themselves, or they can request up to five hours of free assistance from a professional mediator qualified under the B.C. Family Law Act.

“The family resolution centre gives parents a way to agree on a plan that is in the best interests of their children and avoids the cost and conflict of court,” said Sherry MacLennan, LSS’s vice-president of public legal information and applications. “This free service is the first of its kind in Canada to help parents reach an agreement before issues escalate.”

Jamie Gillespie, Tyler Technologies

Jamie Gillespie, Modria

The family resolution centre uses Modria, which is a product offered by Texas-based Tyler Technologies. Jamie Gillespie, general manager of Modria at Tyler, said the benefit of the B.C. platform is that it allows parties to be able to design the parenting plan at any time, avoiding the necessity of having to take time off work or find child care when going to court.

“And the idea is we start a process with the parties just doing party-to-party negotiating, where they are talking to each other through the application,” she said. “And if they are able to resolve their dispute at that point, we can end it there, but if not, we can bring on an actual mediator who can help.”

LSS is responsible for legal aid in the province, but the family resolution centre, which was brought online at the end of July, is available to everyone. LSS had previously deployed part of the Modria solution as part of its guided pathways legal self-service site and dialogue tool for separating couples to make legally binding separation agreements.

“As a legal aid provider, our goal has been to provide all British Columbians, but especially those with low incomes, equal access to justice,” said MacLennan. “We recognized a great opportunity to partner with Modria to help our clients effectively and conveniently resolve family cases through technology. We are excited about the benefits that it will bring to our community.”

Modria, which can also be used for small claims issues, is employed in several jurisdictions in the U.S., as well as New Zealand, the U.K. and Brazil, said Gillespie. But the B.C. solution is the first time Modria has come to Canada.

“We track feedback both from the customer level and also from the end users, so what we are getting is this is really simplifying the legal process for them, because sometimes going into a mediation or a courtroom can be very intimidating and people don’t understand the processes and procedures,” she said.

Gillespie said she believes products such as Modria help with access to justice because they allow people to be more satisfied with the resolution they arrive at because they had an active part in developing it.

“If you go before a court and the judge makes their decision, you often don’t have a lot of say into what that decision is,” she said. “But because you were actually the party who was negotiating you get to decide if it’s something you’re willing to take on, so you’re not being forced to make a decision that is not satisfactory to you.”

And Gillespie noted there are often more mediators in urban than rural areas.

“But because it’s all online, they can actually serve the other areas as well,” she said. “So, you can expand access to justice by allowing the parties to be in any more areas than where they are currently serving.”

To access the family resolution centre, click here: MyLawBC.