Canadian Journal of Family Law

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Access-to-justice studies initiated by Canadian lawyers and judges in the past four years have described the urgent need for family law reform. Reports from the studies discuss the need for a cultural shift—a fresh approach and a new way of thinking—in the reform process. A Roadmap for Change, the final report of the National Action Committee on Access to Justice, emphasizes the importance of providing justice, not just access: "Providing justice—not just in the form of fair and just process, but also in the form of fair and just outcomes—must be our primary concern." This article deals with the need to take a fresh look at the roles and responsibilities of judges in family law cases to ensure fair and just outcomes. Applying an equality-based analysis, this article emphasizes the importance to all family law cases of identifying family violence when it exists, and assessing its impact on the outcome at all stages of the judicial process—including judicial dispute resolution conferences. All justice system professionals, including lawyers, have a role to play in achieving fair and just outcomes; the responsibility does not just fall at the feet of judges. However, as guardians of Canada's justice system and its constitutional values, judges are accountable to the people courts serve. Because of this they have a particularly important and unique leadership role to play.