Canadian Journal of Family Law


Jaime Sarophim

First Page


Document Type

Allan Falconer Memorial Student Essay


Self-represented litigants are becoming an epidemic in the B.C. provincial court system. Litigants who lack legal training and knowledge about the formalities of the court often slow and disrupt the justice system. The cuts to legal aid and the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Christie have contributed to this epidemic. The purpose of this paper is to discuss some of the challenges that self-represented litigants pose to the family law justice system. The erosions to legal aid funding and services have had a disproportionately negative effect on women. It has forced women to become self-represented litigants, resulting in women's continued impoverishment and financial dependency on men, exposed women to violence and abuse by ex-spouses, and forced women to surrender child support, spousal support, custody, and access rights. This paper addresses the current state of legal aid in B.C. It also discusses the adverse effects that the cuts and restructuring of legal aid in B.C. have had on women attempting to navigate the provincial family court system. The paper limits its discussions to the heterosexual experience for brevity and does not address child protection issues, as different legal rules apply in that context.