A Guide to Procedures in Family Court
Ministry of the Attorney General
June 2010, Revised September 2019
This guide does not provide legal advice. It is recommended that all parties seek legal advice where possible.
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ISBN 978-1-4435-3510-6 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-4435-3511-3 (PDF)
If you are served with an application, you almost always have to take some sort of action, such as filing an answer and other forms with the court to respond to the claims against you. You may also make claims against the applicant or another person (an added respondent) in your answer.
It’s important that you take the appropriate next steps as soon as possible so that you don’t miss any deadlines. If you miss your deadline to serve and file an answer, the court case can go ahead and a judge may make final orders without your input.
Rule 10 of the Family Law Rules tells you about how to answer an application.
It is important to review the forms you’ve been served with because they will determine your next steps. Read all the forms and documents you received closely because they can include:
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 and the court file number is in the top right corner of each page of your forms. 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 respond to an application, you will need:
Depending on your circumstances and what you’re asking for, you will also need to prepare:
You should make at least two photocopies of all your completed forms – one copy for yourself, one copy for the applicant, and the original for the court.
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 have completed, signed, and sworn or affirmed (if needed) your forms, you have to serve the applicant and every other party named in your case.
You can serve the documents yourself, using regular or special service. Alternatively, you can ask a friend or a family member who is over the age of 18, or you can hire a professional 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, a friend, or a family member to serve the documents and you cannot afford to hire a process server, you can ask the court staff to arrange to have your documents served for you.
Make photocopies of all your documents that you completed in Step 2 and serve them on every party named in the case:
There are rules about how to count time correctly. If you don’t follow the rules, court staff may not accept your documents.
See A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 6: Serving Documents for more information on service and counting time. You may also refer to Rule 3 and Rule 6 of the Family Law Rules.
After you have served the applicant and any other party in your case:
See A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 5: Filing Documents for more information on how to file documents in family court.
If your case is 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 to file your responding documents. 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 next steps in your family court case may include a:
More information about these possible next steps is available in A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 7: Required Steps.
You should always make sure you know what the next step is in your family court process. If you’re not sure, court staff or a lawyer can help you understand what steps may be required in your case.