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Family Law Act 1996 in Human Services Report (Assessment)

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Introduction

St. Catharines court is a legal hub in Canada’s Niagara region (Regehr & Kannani, 2006). It is the court that I attended to complete this assignment. The establishment handles a variety of legal matters facing persons living in the region. In order to serve its clients better, the court has a number of divisions.

To this end, it is home to the Provincial Offences Court, Small Claims Court, Family Court, the Ontario Court of Justice, and the Superior Court of Justice (Regehr & Kannani, 2006). The Provincial Offences Court is housed separately at 71 King St. The rest of the establishments are found together in the Robert S. K. Welch Courthouse that is situated at 59 Church St. The courthouse is heavily guarded to maintain tight security.

The case of interest in this paper was heard in the Bail Court situated on the second floor of the courthouse. The session was convened following the filing of a non-molestation order. Judicial officers involved in the hearings include one court reporter and two clerks. Judge Lancaster was the Justice of Peace presiding over the case. Two police officers were also present to guard the defendant. Mark Evans was the defense lawyer, while Barry Hill was the Crown Attorney.

Description of my Experience

As a result of my visit to St. Catharines court, I came to the realization that the justice system is a complex labyrinth of legal procedures bringing together various parties. The Welch Courthouse has different courtrooms, which address a wide range of legal issues. The courthouse is heavily guarded. Security is provided by both guards and policemen. Persons visiting the building are thoroughly searched to ensure that they pose no threat to the security of the establishment.

I realized that security personnel has a tendency of enquiring from persons coming into the building the purpose of their visit. To this end, the guards stopped me and asked where I was headed and what I wanted to do. I think maybe I looked lost and that is why they picked on me. Members of staff at the courthouse are very helpful.

They assist visitors in finding their way into the right court. Once in the courtroom, one is required to adhere to specific orders. Persons entering or leaving the room are required to bow facing where the judge is seated as a sign of respect to the court (Regehr & Kannani, 2006). Individuals are also required to stand as the judge enters the courtroom.

The justice system in Canada deals ruthlessly with criminals (Regehr & Kannani, 2006). In spite of the heavy security outside the courtrooms, the defendant remained handcuffed throughout the court session. Two policemen sat at either side of him. At the Bail Court, the amount to be paid by the defendant is determined by the judge after listening to the submissions made by both the defense and the crown attorneys.

In this case, the bail was set based on the gravity of the crime committed. Many of the accused persons can hardly afford to pay the set amount. The reason behind this is that the majority of them have no parents. Social Service Workers (SSW) in the country have, in the past, stepped in to assist such persons.

Defining the Area of Legislation

The Family Law Act of Canada was the legislation revolving around this particular case. The law was enacted in 1996. It safeguards the rights of victims of domestic violence (Regehr & Kannani, 2006). With the enactment of the law, two legal orders were introduced. The first was the occupation order. It is usually issued by a court. It clearly outlines who has the right to stay at the family home and who is to be excluded. However, the order does not alter the financial responsibility of the partners.

The second involves the non-molestation orders. They are issued in the form of injunctions (Non-molestation orders, 2015). They contain clauses that prohibit persons accused of engaging in abusive and violent activities.

The prohibited actions are specified in the order. For example, the abuser is forbidden from molesting any other individual, especially those who are associated with the plaintiff or any relevant child. However, the two orders are short term measures taken by the court before a long term solution can be arrived at.

In most cases, the two orders are issued at the same time. However, non-molestation pronouncements are more common than those touching on the occupation. In some instances, persons apply for non-molestation orders without filing for the occupation one. However, on its own initiative, the court can make an occupation order in family proceedings if the measure is deemed necessary. The action by the court is meant to safeguard the rights of other members of the family (Non-molestation orders, 2015).

The Family Law Act of 1996 does not give a clear definition of the term ‘molesting’ (Regehr & Kannani, 2006). The court is assisted by guidance existing in most common laws to interpret this term. Violence is regarded as the most common form of molestation. However, it is important to note that molesting can be carried out without necessarily having to use violence.

Even in the absence of violence, the act may seriously affect the victim’s physical and mental health. The lack of a specific definition in the legal arena makes the legal provision flexible. As such, it can be used in different circumstances. It is one of the reasons why it was used in this case.

The St. Catharines Court could have issued a non-molestation order following the application by the state. In most cases, such an order is made after the respondent has been notified (Non-molestation orders, 2015). However, this is not always the case. The court can allow the application to be made without such notices when there is a reason to believe that the applicant may be at risk of harm and needs protection from the respondent. The application cannot be made by a stranger. The individual seeking the orders must be related to the accused. It can be made regardless of whether or not there are existing family proceedings.

The legislation is of great significance in social services practice, especially in family and community agency work. As a social worker, one must be ready to safeguard the rights of all members of the community. To achieve this, one must ensure that justice prevails. As such, the social worker should advise clients on how to best access justice for the harm done against them.

Persons going through domestic abuse and harassment from current or previous spouses should be advised on how they should utilize the provisions available in the legal system to protect themselves (Taylor, 1998). For example, clients can be made aware of the two orders provided for in the legislation. They can be advised on the one that is most effective in dealing with their situations.

When a court order is issued, it targets a specific person. It prohibits them from engaging in the acts specified (Non-molestation orders, 2015). A breach of the order is considered to be a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for an unspecified duration. In most cases, when non-molestation or occupation caveats are issued by a court, a copy is sent to the local police department.

Although the two orders are generally used as temporally remedies for domestic problems, some laws justify long term and indefinite injunctions. However, these orders are only made in exceptional circumstances when there is reason enough to believe that their withdrawal would pose a danger to the applicant. However, social workers must ensure that respondents are not given orders for acts that they were actually not involved in (Taylor, 1998).

In most cases, persons who have non-molestation or occupation orders brought against them in a court of law are released. The release is on condition that the person will honor the terms stipulated in the injunction. In cases where the defendant had been arrested following the incident warranting the application for the order to be issued, they may be granted bail. Both the defense and crown attorneys are allowed to apply to the court to vary or discharge the injunction on behalf of their clients (Taylor, 1998).

In this case, a non-molestation order was issued against Sky Walker for harassing his ex-girlfriend and her new partner. The judge presiding over the Bail Court set out several conditions for his release. Among them was that the accused should maintain a distance of fifty meters between himself and his ex-girlfriend and her boyfriend. As a social service advocate, I would be opposed to the court’s decision since the condition is unreasonable, given that the accused and the plaintiff are neighbors and work in the same company.

In this case, it would be impossible to maintain the stipulated distance without him resigning from work or having to migrate from his home until the issue is solved amicably (Taylor, 1998). As a result, the order would greatly disadvantage the accused.

Conclusion

The legislation discussed in this paper came into effect in 1996. It was meant to protect citizens from domestic violence. It applies to current and former spouses and any children associated with them. Under the law, a court can issue two different orders. The first is the non-molestation. The second involves occupation injunctions. The former is the most common. The court sets out conditions that must be fulfilled by the accused prior to the granting of bail. Failure to adhere to the provisions of the order is treated as a criminal offense.

In social service, the law is of great importance. It helps reduce and punish cases of domestic violence. However, social service advocates and workers must be on the lookout to ensure that justice prevails. They can achieve this by ensuring that the conditions of the order are reasonable. In addition, they should ensure that the amount of bail set is fair. Finally, they should establish that the accused is indeed guilty of the harassment claims leveled against them.

References

Non-molestation orders in domestic violence: The nature of the remedies for domestic violence. (2015). Web.

Regehr, C., & Kannani, K. (2006). Essential law for social work practice in Canada, Vancouver, Canada: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, F. (1998). Interpersonal and biological processes. Journal of the Washington School of Psychiatry, 61(2), 1943-2810.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Family Law Act 1996 in Human Services'. 5 May.

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