January 21, 2021 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Dr. Rachel Birnbaum, Professor of Childhood and Social Institutions and the School of Social Work, will serve as co-investigator on “The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Access to Family Justice in Ontario.” This project will provide important interdisciplinary research on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on families experiencing separation and family justice in Ontario.

The project has received $6,000 in funding from the Ontario Chapter of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC-O) and a further $39,213 from the Law Foundation of Ontario. The funding will support the hiring of law and social work students to work as assistants and other research costs.

Dr. Birnbaum will be co-investigator along with two colleagues in law, Dr. Claire Houston, Faculty of Law, Western and Professor Nick Bala, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University.

The research project will study whether and how the dramatic reduction in access to justice has impacted the family justice system. It will also examine how a reduction has impacted the lives of family law litigants, both those with and without lawyers, including its effects on victims of intimate partner violence, children whose parents have separated, and children in care. The project will analyze the impacts of the pandemic and the responsivity of family justice professionals and courts. Finally, it will make recommendations about how some of the responsive reforms might be modified and adopted for continued use.

“By building knowledge on the effects of the pandemic on family cases and family litigants, and resulting responses by courts and professionals, the research project will also help provide practice and policy direction in the justice system in the event of a future pandemic or similar disruptive event. Most importantly, the information obtained will be driven by empirical data and not anecdotal impressions – an important distinction to allow for policy discussions,” says Dr. Birnbaum.

At King’s, Dr. Birnbaum teaches Social Work ethics and law in Social Work and focuses on children in separation and divorce in Childhood and Social Institutions. She is also a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.

For more information, please visit: Western News - Law project examines pandemic's impact on family justice (westernu.ca)

Media coverage: The Lawyer's Daily: https://www.thelawyersdaily.ca/articles/24523/the-pandemic-and-family-justice-in-ontario