All in the family

Ministry of the Attorney General (Legal Aid Ontario)

Date: 2011

A woman was paying $200 per month to Legal Aid for the services of a family law lawyer. After spending $3,600 and losing her case, she felt her lawyer had not adequately represented her. The lawyer agreed not to charge anything for his services and wrote to Legal Aid, asking that the woman’s money be returned.

The woman complained to the Ombudsman when she found out that Legal Aid had mistakenly given her refund money to her ex-husband’s lawyer instead. When she confronted Legal Aid staff about this, they refused to assist her and told her to “work it out” herself with her ex and his lawyer. The woman, who suffered from high blood pressure, was extremely frustrated and fearful that the stress of the situation would affect her health.

Ombudsman staff contacted a Legal Aid manager, who reviewed the file and found there had been a mix-up. The manager agreed it was Legal Aid’s responsibility, not the woman’s, to get the money back from the lawyer to whom it had been wrongly paid. Legal Aid provided the woman with her refund immediately and she thanked the Ombudsman’s Office, noting: “You guys are awesome.”