Supporting Trans* and Gender-variant Clients

The team at Lenehan Musgrave is committed to all facets of access to justice. Our commitment to access to justice is shown in part through the flat rates we offer for certain family law services, and the low contingency fee rates we offer our personal injury clients. Our commitment to access to justice is also shown in our ongoing efforts to learn how to best serve and support our community, which includes clients of diverse backgrounds.

As a part of Pride this year, associate lawyer Daniel Wood attended a workshop held by the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society called “Supporting Trans* and Gender-variant Clients, Colleagues and Employees.” The workshop included an introduction to transgender issues, providing an understanding of proper terms and definitions, and discussions on how to be respectful when assisting transgender clients. The workshop also highlighted some of the unique challenges transgender people face in the legal system.

An example of a challenge transgender individuals have faced in the family law context is the other party attempting to use an individual’s gender transition as a reason to deny or reduce custodial rights and/or parenting time.

Litigants have made negative allegations about transgender parents despite the fact that the law recognizes that transgender parents have the same parental rights, and that a parent being transgender does not negatively impact the best interests of the child(ren). In Forrester v Saliba, 2000, CanLII 28722 (Ont. Ct. J.), which has been referred to by the Nova Scotia Family Court, Justice Wolder on the Ontario Court of Justice stated:

“[T]ranssexuality, in itself, without further evidence, would not constitute a material change in circumstances, nor would it be considered a negative factor in a custody determination.” [para. 19]

In all situations, our role as lawyers is to be a staunch advocate for our clients’ rights and interests, as well as ensure that our clients feel supported throughout their legal disputes. When representing a transgender client this may require us to educate the court about our client’s circumstances to fight unfair stigmas and show that a parent’s Trans identity has no negative effect on their children.

At Lenehan Musgrave we welcome the opportunity to serve members of the Trans community, as well as other members of the LGBTQ+ community.

We hope that everybody enjoyed a safe and happy pride this year!