Ontario family justice in “lockdown”: Early pandemic cases and professional experience

Claire Houston*, Rachel Birnbaum, Nicholas Bala, Kate Deveau

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly affected families and children involved in Ontario's family justice system as well as family justice professionals in the province. In a span of two years, Ontario's family justice system has been fundamentally transformed, from a paper-based, in-person system to a paperless system in which many services, including judicial proceedings, continue to be largely delivered remotely. We report on the findings of two studies on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Ontario family justice: (1) an analysis of early pandemic court decisions; and (2) a survey of family justice professionals about their experiences during the early pandemic. We describe how the pandemic has exacerbated access to justice issues for certain groups, including families experiencing high conflict, victims of intimate partner violence, families involved in child welfare proceedings, and self-represented litigants, while improving access to justice for others by improving efficiency and reducing legal costs. As Ontario moves past the pandemic, the family justice system will need to ensure that technological advances improve access to justice for all court-involved families.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-258
Number of pages18
JournalFamily Court Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Access to justice
  • COVID-19
  • high conflict
  • intimate partner violence
  • self-represented litigants
  • technology


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