New National SRL Support Organization: “My Journey to Advocacy”NSRLP
Guest blog by Jana Saracevic, National Self-Represented Litigants Support Network
How I Got Here
In 2008, my family and I became a statistic. We entered the enigmatic world of the family legal system. My spouse and I wore rose-coloured glasses – we imagined the process of separation and divorce would be relatively straightforward, and follow a logical path. Within a year ,I went from feeling sad at the breakup of my family, to utter shock and disbelief. The family legal system did not operate the way we thought it would.
In the initial turmoil of separating, I recall strong emotions being at the forefront of every contact with my family lawyer. Nonetheless, we settled custody and division of property fairly quickly.
Unfortunately, it took an additional 3 years, 4 lawyers, 1 paralegal, self-representation on both sides, and a full-blown court battle to resolve the issue of support. It took an additional 4 years of being a self-represented litigant and 1final lawyer to enforce the court orders.
This experience changed me.
Journey towards Advocacy
For as long as I can remember I have felt empathy, and have spoken up for, those who have difficulty standing up for themselves. But during my divorce it was me that needed help. I was emotionally, mentally, and physically overwhelmed while learning to navigate the legal system.
I left no stone unturned looking for ways to understand, and to work within, the rules of court. Information and practical resources were difficult to find. It was like looking for water in a desert.
It was through the National Self-Represented Litigants Project (NSRLP) that I was first given an opportunity to describe my frustrating experiences with our court system to members of the legal profession. I participated in the “SRL for a Day” event in 2014.
I was given an opportunity to make a difference.
Why We Need a National SRL Support Network (NSSN)
The current system is extremely difﬁcult to navigate without counsel. The complexity and lack of resources take an emotional, mental and physical toll on individuals who attempt to represent themselves. Family litigants expect stress, but we are not meant to live in this heightened state of anxiety for months, or even years, at a time. It is possible to improve the SRL experience.
NSSN has been established to provide support for individuals who cannot afford or access legal counsel. Our goal is to offer the moral support of others who are having, or who have had, a SRL experience, and to enhance access to justice through the provision of trusted information and resources linked to the NSSN website.
What Can a National SRL Network Do?
- Provide opportunities to connect with fellow SRLs and to organize local chapters We are convinced of the importance of this mutual support to help one another through a very difficult experience.
- Develop a website offering links to quality, relevant information, organized by province (including court forms, alternative dispute resolution services, and other trusted sources of guidance for SRLs).
- Provide detailed information about local unbundled legal services, paralegal services, provincial legal aid and related organizations that offer no-cost legal services.
The first Toronto-area NSSN Chapter meeting will be held May 30th @6-8 pm, at the Barbara Frum Library (Bathurst Street and Lawrence Avenue)
Please RSVP as spaces are limited.
Jana Saracevic, National Self-Represented Litigants Support Network (Toronto)