A Profile of Legal Aid Services in Family Law Matters in Canada
- 2.11 Yukon
Family legal aid in the Yukon is provided by the Yukon Legal Services Society, which has five staff lawyers in two separate clinics, as well as access to several private lawyers. Applicants are asked to schedule an appointment for an interview with the Legal Aid Clerk, and are requested to bring the following information to the interview:
- Any documents related to the case (e.g., court orders, agreements, served papers).
- Proof of current household income (e.g., three to four recent pay stubs, social assistance budget sheet, Employment Income statements, current financial statements if self-employed).
- Proof of any child support paid or received.
- Proof of unusual expenses (e.g., medical/dental costs).
Approved applicants are assigned counsel, usually within one or two days. If an application for legal aid is refused, the decision may be appealed to the Yukon Legal Services Society’s Board of Directors.
According to the Yukon Legal Services Society, family matters that are covered for eligible persons include the following:
- All child protection proceedings.
- Interim proceedings in cases of family breakdown where children are involved and resulting in issues of custody, access, child support, restraining orders and exclusive possession of the matrimonial home and where:
- there are no pre-existing orders of the court or other lawfully binding resolution, or
- where the health or safety of a child or parent, or an established parent/child relationship is at risk.
An independent assessment of merits may be required by the Executive Director prior to extending or continuing legal aid coverage in any of these matters. Although some of these matters may be commenced by the filing of a Petition for Divorce, assigned counsel are not authorized to complete the divorce proceedings.
In general, clients are eligible for legal aid if they have no income, receive social assistance benefits, or if their net take-home pay is comparable to social assistance benefits. Decisions are based on the total household income and the number of people in the household, but specific financial guidelines are confidential. The Executive Director of the Yukon Legal Services Society Legal Aid has discretion to add to, vary, or waive any income guidelines or financial eligibility requirements where they would cause, in the opinion of the Executive Director or the Board, undue financial hardship to an applicant. In cases where the applicant’s net household income is slightly above guideline amounts, the Executive Director may find the applicant to be eligible if the applicant agrees to contribute to the cost of legal assistance as a condition of legal aid.
The Yukon Legal Services Society endeavours to recover the fees and disbursements paid to provide legal aid to a client, except in cases where the Executive Director thinks repayment would cause undue financial hardship. Repayment of costs incurred may be secured by taking a promissory note from a legal aid client, taking an assignment of any proceeds of settlement, cash bail, judgment or legal costs to which the legal aid client is entitled, or such other method as considered appropriate by the Executive Director or the Board.
There have been no significant policy changes regarding legal aid in the Yukon in the last five years. The Yukon Legal Services Society recently reviewed its coverage policy for clients requiring civil/family representation. As a result of this review, the Yukon Legal Services Society expanded its coverage to include: (1) maintenance variation applications; and (2) custody trials (reviewed on a case-by-case basis). In addition, it is in the process of expanding coverage to include Family Violence Prevention Act representation.
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