Separation or divorce is a stressful time for anyone. Many people are unsure what steps they must take, if any, to end a relationship or marriage. Barriers like poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy can stop people from finding out about their rights, knowing their options, and taking action. Immigrants may face additional barriers relating to their capability to speak English or French, and cultural or religious beliefs about rights and obligations to custody and access of children, spousal and child support and division of marital property. Immigrants who were married in another country may not know that they have similar rights to Canadians to use the courts to settle family law matters.
With funding from Justice Canada, the Public Legal Education and Information Service of New Brunswick (PLEIS-NB) recently launched a new booklet called Family Law Matters for Immigrants in New Brunswick. They also piloted a workshop in Fredericton dealing with family law and Immigrants.
The purpose of the new booklet is to help immigrants understand the family justice system in New Brunswick. To ensure the relevancy of the content, PLEIS-NB held focus groups with immigrants and immigrant serving agencies to discuss family law information needs. As well, the booklet was reviewed by several legal experts. The booklet points to some common misconceptions about the legal system and explains key rights and responsibilities that couples have to one another and to their children – even if they were never married. It also touches on family violence and immigration status. Finally, the booklet offers referrals to many helpful resources and support services.
Over the next couple of months, PLEIS will be piloting “family law and immigrants” workshops in Saint John and Moncton. If there is sufficient interest, this workshop will become a regular component of PLEIS-NB’s Navigating the Family Justice System initiative offering workshops to the public across the province. To help promote access to the family justice system, the booklet is currently being translated into Korean, Mandarin and Arabic.
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