A ruling from the Ontario Superior Court tells us that we should be careful when seeking legal advice from the Internet — or even T.V., for that matter. That’s not to say the Internet doesn’t offer some reliable information, or that a general understanding of the law can’t be gained from the culture at large. It just means there is no substitute for legal advice from a properly trained lawyer, especially when a person is facing a real-life court situation.
An official ruling
In the Ontario Superior Court decision, the judge ruled that a woman facing a costly divorce proceeding and child-custody battle could not represent herself in court. This followed an earlier decision that determined she could in fact represent herself.
Part of the challenge in this case was the woman’s failure to qualify for legal aid, which is targeted for the poor. At the same time, she could no longer afford a lawyer, so the judge in the earlier hearing determined she was intelligent enough to represent herself, despite her own doubts about doing so.
However, the Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that the woman, not being a qualified lawyer, could not represent herself. In addition, the judge said that she sought legal advice from the Internet, which advised her incorrectly. If nothing else, the instance is a lesson in using judgement and discretion from any source of information, including the Internet.
There are least a couple more lessons to be learned from this episode. First, what we learn from T.V. and popular culture isn’t always true, in part because much of it comes from the United States. Many of us have seen shows where people represent themselves. Well, at least in Ontario, a qualified lawyer is usually legally mandatory.
Another lesson to be learned lies in the value lawyers bring to people in need. In many respects, the law is an entity in itself. It has developed this way for centuries. Like it or not, it’s the system we have, and often it’s only qualified licensed attorneys that know how to navigate the system for the benefit of their clients.
If you need a professional advice on family law, or if you’re thinking of divorce, please phone us here at Hosseini Law Firm (HLF) for a 15 minute free consultation: 416-628-4635, or please use the contact form provided on this page. Thank you.