A Guide to Procedures in Family Court
Ministry of the Attorney General
April 2012, Revised September 2019
This guide does not provide legal advice. It is recommended that all parties seek legal advice where possible.
Ce guide est également disponible en français.
ISBN 978-1-4435-8303-9 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-4435-8304-6 (PDF)
To begin your family court case, you have to complete and file an application at the court with information about:
You have to fill out one of the following applications to indicate which issues you want the court to look at:
Rule 5 and Rule 8 of the Family Law Rules tell you about how to start a family law application.
You can find the court forms online or at any family court office.
You can complete the forms on a computer or by hand. Please make sure your handwriting is clear. Court staff can’t complete the forms for you.
You will need to swear or affirm that the information in some of your forms is true, and sign them in front of a commissioner for taking affidavits. There are commissioners for taking affidavits at all family court offices who will commission your forms for free. Remember, it is a criminal offence to swear or affirm a false or misleading affidavit.
To start a general application, you need to fill out:
Depending on your circumstances and what you’re asking for, you will also need to prepare:
To start a simple application for a divorce only, you need to prepare:
If you and your spouse are asking for a divorce together, you will need to prepare:
If you and your spouse are together asking for orders other than a divorce, you will also need to prepare:
If you want help filling out the forms and you don’t have a lawyer, you can:
You can find more information about these resources in A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 1: Information Before You Start Your Family Case.
After you complete all your documents, you have to get them issued by the court. This means that a court clerk:
You should make copies of everything that the clerk returns to you in order to serve a copy on the respondent and any other person or agency that needs to be served. Remember to also keep a copy for yourself.
If you are starting your case at the Superior Court of Justice or the Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice, you may be required to pay a court fee or qualify for a fee waiver. If you’re eligible for a fee waiver, you won’t have to pay most fees. Learn more about fee waivers.
There is no fee to file documents at the Ontario Court of Justice.
More information about court filing fees is available in A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 5: Filing Documents.
The clerk will give you a first appearance date if you start your case at the Ontario Court of Justice or the Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice, unless you’re asking for a divorce or making claims related to property.
The Superior Court of Justice does not schedule first appearances when you issue your application. You are responsible for scheduling your first court appearance, which is usually a case conference. More information about conferences is available in A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 7: Required Steps.
In most circumstances, you and the respondent will be required to attend a free Mandatory Information Program (MIP) session. When the clerk issues your application, you will receive two MIP notices – one for you and one for the respondent. You will each be scheduled to attend different MIP sessions.
More information about the MIP is available in A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 7: Required Steps.
If you filed a general or simple application, the following documents must be served on the respondent:
Someone other than you (who is at least 18 years old) must serve your documents on the respondent, using special service. Special service means that the documents must be delivered to the respondent by a certain method (for example, by handing the documents to the respondent). You can ask a friend or a family member who is over the age of 18 to do this, or you can hire a process server to serve the forms for you. You can get the name of a process server online.
If it isn’t safe for you or a friend or family member to serve the documents and you cannot afford to hire a professional process server, you can ask the court staff to arrange to have your documents served for you.
If a first appearance is scheduled in your case, the respondent must receive your documents with enough time to complete, serve, and file an answer. The respondent has:
You may also be required to serve other agencies or persons with an interest in your case. For example, you must serve the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services if you are receiving social assistance from Ontario Works and make a claim for spousal support.
For more information, see A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 6: Service. You can also refer to Rule 6 of the Family Law Rules.
If you and your spouse filed a joint application, no service on the other party is required because you are together asking the court for the same orders (there is no respondent).
You must complete Form 6B: Affidavit of Service (one for each party that was served). In this form, you give information to prove to the court that your documents were served on the respondent and any other party.
The person who served the documents (whether it was you or somebody else) must swear or affirm that the information in Form 6B is true, and sign the form in front of a commissioner for taking affidavits. There are commissioners for taking affidavits at all family court offices who will commission the form for free.
Remember, it is a criminal offence to swear or affirm a false or misleading affidavit. It is your responsibility to make sure that the information in Form 6B is true.
After Form 6B is sworn or affirmed, you must file it at the court where you issued your application. You will include Form 6B in the Continuing Record for your case and update the table of contents.
See A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 6: Serving Documents for more information on filing proof of service. You can also refer to Rule 6 of the Family Law Rules.
If you want a divorce order, you must file your original marriage certificate with the court.
The court will not give you a divorce until you file your certificate, unless the court is satisfied by your explanation in your Form 36: Affidavit for Divorce why you cannot get your certificate.
If you do not have your marriage certificate and were married in Ontario, you may obtain a copy of your marriage certificate for a fee from ServiceOntario or call toll-free at 1-800-267-8097 or within Toronto at 416-326-1234. You may also contact the Registrar General of Ontario toll free at 1-800-461-2156 or within Toronto at 416-325-8305.
If you were married in another province or territory in Canada, you may order a copy of your marriage certificate from the government of that province or territory.
If you were married outside of Canada, and your marriage certificate is not in English, you must have it translated by a certified translator. You can find certified translation services online or in the yellow pages of the telephone directory.
If you were married outside of Canada, you must provide proof of any previous divorce or death of your spouse. You will need to contact the government branch responsible for recording this type of information in the other country.
The Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings must be notified whenever a person applies for a divorce anywhere in Canada. The court will electronically send information to the federal Department of Justice’s Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings to obtain a Clearance Certificate that confirms no other divorce cases have been started in Canada for you and your spouse. The court cannot grant your divorce until the Clearance Certificate has been received.
If the judge grants your divorce, the court will issue a divorce order. The court will send you and your former spouse the signed order in the self-addressed stamped envelopes that you provided to the court.
Where the court grants a divorce, the divorce order will state that the divorce is effective on the 31st day after the date on which the order was made. The certificate of divorce is proof of the date of your divorce.
You or your former spouse may request the certificate of divorce from the court.
The Ministry of the Attorney General’s Family Claims Online filing service enables you to file certain court documents online, at any time, without having to go to court.