MONCTON (GNB) – A new service delivery model will expand to Moncton next month to provide families with an alternative, streamlined court process.

The expansion of the Family Case Management Model to Moncton was announced in March, but no date was specified at that time. The government’s funding of $650,000 is for resources including family case management masters, a triage co-ordinator, family law information centre personnel, and lawyers to provide legal advice.

The goal of the model is to decrease court delays, encourage alternate dispute resolution processes and improve access to legal information, as well as legal assistance. A team of specialized court staff and case management specialists will triage cases and direct them to early resolution.

The model has four main components:

Family law information centre: This office will be open to the public five days per week. It will provide information and forms related to family law and will be staffed by the triage co-ordinator and support staff. The triage co-ordinator will help self-represented litigants understand the processes involved in resolving family law issues. Lawyers will also be available to provide preliminary legal advice.

Triage co-ordinator: In addition to providing assistance in the centre, the co-ordinator will meet with parties to help them identify which issues need to be resolved and identify paths for resolution. They will also track the progress of each case.

Advice lawyers: Two part-time advice lawyers will provide preliminary advice to self-represented litigants. These lawyers will not accompany litigants to case conferences, settlement conferences or court hearings, but will provide assistance at the entry point of the process.

Case management master: This person will conduct case conferences with the parties, outside the formal court setting, to help them resolve their issues. The master will draft consent orders for parties who have reached an agreement and will be authorized to make procedural orders and temporary orders for support, custody and access.

This service delivery model is meant to reduce wait times for first appearances in family court. The first appearance can address many of the key issues, such as interim custody, access, possession of the home and support. Establishing these interim measures at such an early point helps limit the disruption to families.

A pilot program was previously launched in Saint John. The pilot was evaluated and enhanced to help ensure family needs are met effectively and is now being expanded to the Moncton region.

In Saint John, this model reduced wait times for first appearances from months to weeks or days. The model helped reduce the overall amount of time spent in court before a judge by limiting the scope of final matters for resolution in court. Every month, the family law information centre in Saint John responds to between 600 and 700 requests for assistance.

Families in the Moncton judicial district will be able to access this service beginning Sept. 17 by visiting the family law information centre in the Moncton courthouse or by calling 506-856-3131.