Local man faces financial ruin for doing the right thing

By Greg Holden

A local father is facing financial decisions that draw into question the fairness of the Legal Aid process. Bryan Bueckert didn’t know he had a daughter until four years ago. Now he is about $15,000 in debt to lawyers after fighting for full custody, in court proceedings that have been put on hold.

After Bueckert began the court process to gain full custody, Children’s Aid became involved with the mother in question and her other three children. The mother of the child faces a trial in October, and Bueckert needs legal representation, as he is being asked to testify. The cost of that representation is estimated to be over $2,500 which Bueckert does not have.

$15,000 in debt was accrued while Bueckert had Legal Aid coverage. Due to his income level, Legal Aid had decided three years ago that Bueckert would have coverage but he would have to repay $150 a month. After a re-assessment Legal Aid recently decided Bueckert’s coverage was to be denied. “When I signed up, they took into account we had debt. My wife still has students loans, I still have credit card debt”, Bueckert explained. Legal Aid said that it didn’t matter and the decision was solely based on income. The option to increase monthly payments to Legal Aid was not offered to the Bueckert family.

There is no guarantee that the trial in family court in October is the last of the legal expenses Bueckert may have. “I don’t want to borrow money from friends because I don’t know when I could repay it or if I will need more in the future”, said Bueckert. “I contacted my MP Rick Nicholl’s office and they said because it is in litigation they cannot get involved. They did confirm Legal Aid cutbacks in the province.” Facing the prospect of financial ruin because of legal expenses, Bueckert has even considered quitting his job so he can qualify for Legal Aid. However that isn’t an option either. “The combined income (between husband and wife) must be less than $23,000 or you do not qualify at all, for a family of three”, was how Bueckert explained Legal Aid’s criteria. “We couldn’t afford it (to live on $23,000), we couldn’t live like that.”

“When I spoke with Legal Aid, they said ‘Your lawyer put in an intent to terminate’”. Bueckert told Legal Aid that the matter Bueckert was covered for was still in litigation. “My daughter is in my care, but I don’t have an official court order yet. There are other children involved in this case who are not mine and that CAS wants to be dealt with. Unfortunately it is a battle between CAS and my daughter’s mother and we are caught in the crossfire.”

Bueckert and his wife said Children’s Aid never were a problem for the family. The trial involves Bueckert’s daughter and three other children. “My daughters mother is in favour of us having custody and so is the CAS. Everyone is in favour of me having custody, and we have had her for over a year. The only thing that is keeping us involved is that CAS and my daughter’s mother cannot agree on access for my daughter.”, said Bueckert. “CAS don’t call us or visit us, they are happy with us.”

When asked about representing himself Bueckert said, “I could represent myself but I would lose a week from work and I don’t understand law. I studied a bit of law in high-school but I don’t want to agree to something where I could get shafted. I highly doubt they will take my daughter away from me, she is stable and everything is fine. But I don’t know what will happen if I don’t have a lawyer.”

While discussing monthly payments to the lawyer, Bueckert reflected on the lawyers intent to terminate and said “By the sounds of it, because it is on such short notice, I don’t think he would do that”. Bueckert admitted he had yet to explore that possibility. For standing up and doing the right thing Bueckert is being severely penalized by the legal process itself. In forging a family with his wife and daughter, the cost in doing so limits the life he can offer his family.

3 Responses to Local man faces financial ruin for doing the right thing

  1. Tim Labute Reply

    October 5, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    These are good people. I have known them for years. Truly a travesty.

  2. khoral Reply

    October 5, 2021 at 6:34 pm

    Praying for you Bryan .. This is a sad read as you are a good guy and a hard worker .

  3. Jason Rekker Reply

    October 6, 2021 at 7:22 am

    Funny how the system is full of ways to go after dead beat dads and much slower to rally behind a good father in trouble. If protecting every child is what CAS is all about, why not protect Bryan’s daughter’s happy home? I support you Bryan!