Family Law

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Family Law involves all legal issues that can be dealt with in a family court, including divorce and separation, child custody and access, and support payments. This section also has information on child and spousal abuse and what to do when a family member is physically or mentally unable to look after themselves.

Common Law Relationships and Cohabitation Agreements

What does it mean to be in a common law relationship?

If you live or "cohabit" with someone without being married, people often say you are in a common law relationship or you are cohabiting. There is no single definition of what constitutes a common law spouse.  For many Ontario laws you need to live together for three years or together be the parents of a child. For most federal laws, you are considered a common law couple if you live together for one year.

An important distinction between married and common law spouses is the right to property when the relationship breaks down.  Couples who live together do not have the same rights as married couples to a share in the value of property, including the home they live in, unless the property is in both of their names.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a written agreement between two people who live together or plan to live together and are not married. A cohabitation agreement sets out the rights and responsibilities of both people while they are living together and if they decide to stop living together. It can cover such issues as ownership or division of property and support obligations, but it cannot cover who will have custody of or access to any children of the relationship if the relationship ends.

Separation and Divorce

New: Applications for divorce under the federal Civil Marriage Act for non-residents married in Ontario now accepted at SCJ family counters. Learn more

What is a separation?

  • In Ontario, you and your spouse are separated on the day you start living apart from each other and you do not intend to live together again. It is not necessary to go to court or file a document to become "legally separated".

Am I still considered separated even though my spouse and I live together in our home?

  • If your relationship has ended but both spouses are still living in the home, you may still be considered to be living separate and apart if you are no longer behaving as though you were married.
  • Generally, the courts require clear evidence that spouses are no longer sharing social or family events if they continue to live in the same home. If you are unclear about whether you are living separate and apart, you should speak with a lawyer.

I would like to get separated from my partner. What do I do?

  • There a number of decisions that will need to be made, including which one of you will stay in your home, or what to do with the family home, who will take care of any children you have, whether support will be paid, and how you will divide your property.
  • There are many different ways for you and your partner to resolve these issues: you can talk to your partner directly, go to mediation, use lawyers to help negotiate an agreement, participate in a collaborative family law process or go to court.
  • For people who have experienced complicating factors in their relationship, like violence or abuse, the court process might be one of the safest options.
  • Before pursuing any of these options, it is important to speak to a lawyer. A lawyer is in the best position to advise you of your legal rights and obligations, and to help you understand the legal consequences of your decisions, even if you do not go to court.

What is a separation agreement?

  • Sometimes, parties are able to work out the terms of their separation by writing them down in a separation agreement. Separation agreements can deal with issues that come up when you separate like who the children will spend time with and at what times, child and spousal support and division of property.
  • A separation agreement is a contract that you must honour. You should speak to a lawyer to make sure you know all of the legal consequences of your decisions and you should ask your lawyer to review your separation agreement before you sign it.
  • Make sure that you understand what the separation agreement says and that you agree to it.

Do I need to go to court to process my separation agreement?

  • If you and your former partner have both received independent legal advice and agreed to the terms of your separation agreement, you do not need to go to court. A separation agreement must be signed by both of you in front of a witness for it to be legal. The witness must sign the agreement too.
  • You can file a copy of the separation agreement with the court, but you do not have to. If you want the Family Responsibility Office to collect support payments on your behalf, you must file your separation agreement with either the Ontario Court of Justice or Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice.

What is a divorce?

  • Divorce means that a marriage has been legally ended by a court order. You must be divorced from your spouse before you can marry anyone else. Only a court can grant you a divorce.

I would like to get a divorce. What do I do?

  • In order to legally end your marriage, you must apply to the court for a divorce.
  • An application for divorce can only be filed in a Superior Court of Justice or Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice. More…

How long does a divorce take?

  • An application for divorce can usually be finalized within four to six months, provided there are no other issues, such as custody/access, support or division of property. If your application is more complicated, the completion time will depend on how complex the issues are and whether they can be resolved with the agreement of both parties.
  • In order for a divorce to be granted, you must have been separated from your spouse for one year, unless you have established other grounds, such as adultery or mental or physical cruelty.

How much does a divorce cost?

  • It costs approximately $450.00 to file for divorce in Ontario.
  • Court fees of $167.00 are due when an application is filed. An additional $280 is due when an affidavit for divorce is filed, for total of $447.00.
  • Court fees may be paid by cash, cheque or money order payable to the Minister of Finance.
  • If you are unable to pay the court fees, you may request a fee waiver.

Do I need a lawyer to get a divorce?

  • While you do not need a lawyer to file a divorce application, it is a good idea to consult one before doing so.
  • A lawyer can help you understand the effects a divorce can have on your rights and obligations. For example, you may no longer qualify for health benefits under a spouse's plan after a divorce has been granted.

Do I have to be separated for a certain amount of time before I can get a divorce?

  • In most cases, in order for a divorce to be granted, you must have been separated from your spouse for one year. This means living separate and apart.
  • While you can file an application beforehand, you cannot complete an affidavit for divorce based on a separation until a year has passed. If you have established other grounds, such as adultery or mental or physical cruelty, a divorce can be granted at any time.

Can I still get a divorce if there are issues that have not yet been settled (e.g. custody/access and support)?

  • If you have children, a court will not grant the divorce until you have shown that adequate child support arrangements are in place.
  • You can apply for a divorce before the other issues have been resolved, but your spouse could then ask the court to deal with them, which may delay the process.

What is a simple divorce application? What is a joint divorce?

  • A simple divorce is a request for a divorce only. It can be prepared either by one spouse, or by both spouses as a joint application.
  • Through a joint application, the spouses can request a divorce only, or a divorce with other orders (e.g. agreed upon child support payments). In this case, both spouses must complete all documents necessary to obtain the divorce.
  • If a divorce application is prepared by one spouse only, it must be served (legally delivered) upon the other spouse after it has been issued. He or she would then have 30 days to respond (60 days if the application is served outside of North America).

I have lived with my common law partner for three years, but we never married. Do we need a divorce?

  • No, only married spouses need a divorce.
  • Common law spouses may, however, have other issues that need to be resolved, including child custody and access, and support and division of jointly owned property. You should speak to a lawyer about your rights and obligations arising from a common law relationship.

Which court should I start my divorce case in?

  • If children's issues (custody of, or access to, children) are involved, you should start the case in the place where your children normally live.
  • Otherwise, it can be started in the place where either party lives. For a complete listing of the court addresses in Ontario, click here.
  • If there is both an Ontario Court of Justice and Superior Court of Justice in your jurisdiction, you must start your case in the court that can decide your issues.

My spouse has served me with a divorce application, what do I need to do?

  • If you live in Canada or the United States, you have up to 30 days to respond to the application. You have 60 days if the application is served (legally delivered) outside of North America. If you do not agree with the claims set out in the application, or wish to make a claim of your own, you must prepare a response, serve it on the other party and file it with the court. The document that is filed in response is called an answer.
  • If you are using a lawyer, you should make an appointment right away to discuss your response. If you do not file an answer within the required time, your spouse can ask the court for an order based on the claims in the application.

Which forms should I use?

  • Some Family and Small Claims Court forms can be completed using the Forms Assistant program.
  • The Guide to Procedures in Family Court explains the steps in the court process, as well as the documents that need to be served (legally delivered) and filed with the court at each stage.
  • For more information visit the nearest Family Law Information Centre (FLIC). These centres are available in all court districts and provide information about the family justice system and court processes.

What steps are involved in the family court process?

  • Unless you are filing for divorce only, the Family Law Rules require both sides to attend at least one conference with a judge to discuss the issues in dispute and how they can be resolved.
  • The first conference is called a "case conference". Here, the judge and parties discuss ways to resolve the issues in dispute, as well as steps that should be taken for the case to proceed.
  • Following the case conference, one or both parties may bring a motion for a temporary court order (e.g. to deal with custody of children). That temporary order would be in effect until it is changed or a final order is made.
  • A case conference is usually followed by a settlement conference, where the judge and parties attempt to settle the case. At this point, the judge may be able to provide an opinion of how the issues in dispute could be resolved.
  • If the parties still cannot settle the case, a trial may be necessary. A trial management conference would then be held to determine how the trial would proceed.
  • Before each court appearance, both parties must serve (legally deliver) certain documents on the other party and file them with the court. For more information about which documents must be filed at each step, see A Guide to Procedures in Family Court.

I need to get a court order right away, what should I do?

  • In most cases, you must attend a case conference before you can bring a motion to ask the court for a temporary order.
  • However, if your situation is urgent, you can ask the court for an immediate temporary order. The judge hearing the motion will decide whether the order should be made before a case conference has been held.

Is a court order necessary?

  • A court order is not always required in family disputes. If the parties can come to an agreement then they can enter into a separation agreement that sets out the agreed upon terms. If they can't come to an agreement or if one party is concerned that the other will not comply with an agreement, one of the parties may want to obtain a court order to determine what the arrangements will be (for example what support will be paid) and to enforce those arrangements.

I can't attend a court date that has already been arranged, what should I do?

  • You should inform your lawyer or the other parties as soon as possible that you can't be there and need to reschedule.
  • If you are requesting the court date be moved to a later date (an adjournment), you should file a Form 14B: Motion form. You should note on that form whether or not the other parties agree with your request.
  • If you are requesting an adjournment because of an emergency, you should contact the family court office as soon as possible.

If I'm not happy with a court decision, what can I do?

  • If you believe that the court made the wrong decision, you can file an appeal.
  • If you are considering an appeal, you should speak to a lawyer right away about your options for appeal. You should also discuss deadlines for it to be started and whether it is likely to be successful.

Can I settle out of court?

Where do I get a get a copy of a Divorce Order, Certificate of Divorce or other court document?

How do I find a lawyer or a paralegal?

Child Custody and Access

What is the difference between joint and sole custody? What about shared custody?

  • Joint custody means that both parents make major decisions about the children together.
  • Sole custody means that one parent makes all major decisions about the children.
  • Children's living arrangements can vary greatly. In some cases children maintain a primary residence with one parent and visit regularly with the other. In others the children divide their time equally or approximately equally between the parents' homes.
  • Shared custody exists when children live with each parent at least 40 per cent of the time. In these circumstances, special provisions apply to the calculation of child support, depending on the amount of time children spend with each parent.

How do I apply for sole custody?

  • In order to get a child custody or access order, you will need to support your claim with an application and an affidavit.
  • If you and the other parent can agree on who will have custody of the child, you can make a separation agreement. A court application will usually not be necessary.
  • Both parties should get independent legal advice before the agreement is finalized to make sure they understand their rights and responsibilities.

My partner has applied for sole custody - what can I do?

  • If you and your partner agree what the custody and access arrangements will be for your children, you can file a copy of the agreement with the court. If you do not agree with your partner's request, then you must prepare a document that is called your "answer". If you include a claim for child custody or access you must also complete an affidavit to support your claim.

How does a judge decide custody of, or access to, a child?

  • Both the Children's Law Reform Act and the Divorce Act say that decisions about child custody and access are based on the best interests of the child. Factors taken into consideration include:
    • The ability of each parent to care for the child
    • The ties between the child and each parent
    • The stability of the child's current living arrangements
    • The strength of each parent's plan to care for the child in the future, and,
    • The child's wishes (in appropriate circumstances).
  • The law also states that the judge must consider violence or abuse when assessing a person's ability to parent.

My former spouse isn't providing me access according to our court order. What can I do?

  • If a court order for access is not being followed, you can ask the court to enforce the order.
  • Where appropriate, the court can require your former spouse to respect the provisions of the order and impose penalties if they don't comply.
  • If there are serious problems with the access arrangements, the court can make changes to the existing order if they are in the child's best interests.

I want to go on holiday with my children outside of Canada. Do I need to have my former spouse's permission?

  • Federal authorities will likely require written confirmation of your former spouse's consent before allowing the children to be removed from Canada.
  • Standard consent forms are available from the federal government. If your former spouse will not grant his or her permission, you may need a court order to permit the travel.

I want to have a custody or access order changed, what should I do?

  • If your order is no longer appropriate due to a significant change in the children's needs or circumstances, you can have it changed with your former spouse's consent.
  • If he or she does not agree, you can bring a motion to ask the court to change the order to reflect the new circumstances. This is called a motion to change.

I want to move to another province with my children, what do I need to do?

  • Unless you have a court order or agreement that specifically allows you to move with the children, you should speak to your lawyer about any steps that should be taken before you finalize your plans.
  • In most circumstances, your proposed move will be an issue for the courts to resolve if you and your former spouse cannot come to an agreement.

Who can help if I think my partner is going to abduct my child?

  • If you do not have a court order that sets out the custody of and access to the child, you should speak with a lawyer right away about whether you need one, as well as an order prohibiting your partner from taking the child out of Ontario.
  • Keep your child's identification and passport in a safe place.
  • If your child is already missing, call your local police, the RCMP and the Consular Affairs Bureau (1-800-267-6788) and speak with your lawyer about what other steps can be taken to have your child returned.
  • Child Find Ontario is dedicated to helping missing and exploited children and youth in Ontario.

I've split up from my partner and the Children's Aid Society has taken my child, what do I do now?

  • Once the child has been taken from your care, the Children's Aid Society must take the case to court within five days. You should plan to attend court on the day when your case is first being heard.
  • You should speak with a lawyer right away. These cases can move quickly and be complicated. Your lawyer will help you prepare for court, including preparing your response to the Children's Aid Society's application. If you are not able to find a lawyer before the first court date, a lawyer called a Duty Counsel is usually at the courthouse to give you basic help on that day.
  • If you can't afford a lawyer you can apply for legal aid. You will have to give Legal Aid Ontario information about your income and any property that you own. If you qualify, Legal Aid Ontario will give you a certificate to pay for, or help pay for, a lawyer.
  • You can get more information from the following sources:
    • Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS):
      MCYS funds and monitors children's aid societies, develops policy to support the child welfare program and licenses children's group homes and foster homes. More…
    • Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies:
      The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies is the voice of children's aid societies in Ontario, dedicated to providing leadership in the protection and promotion of children's well being within their families and communities. More…
    • Justice for Children and Youth:
      Justice for Children and Youth provides legal representation to low-income children and youth in Toronto and the vicinity. They may be able to provide information and referrals for child protection cases. More…

I'm a child who's been taken from my parents' home by the Children's Aid Society, where can I go for legal advice?

  • The court can order that the Office of the Children's Lawyer provide you with a lawyer in child protection cases. This lawyer is independent from the Children's Aid Society and your parents. If you are not sure if the Children's Aid Society will be asking the court to appoint a lawyer for you, you can ask your Children's Aid Society social worker to ask the court to appoint a lawyer for you.
  • Information and referrals for lawyers may also be available from Justice for Children and Youth.
  • In most cases, if you are 12 years of age or older, you have a right to be served with the court materials and may attend court.

More about child custody and access.

How do I find a lawyer or a paralegal?

Family Mediation, Collaborative Family Law And Alternative Dispute Resolution

What is family mediation?

  • Family mediation is a voluntary way of resolving disputes where a trained mediator helps parties of relatively equal bargaining positions to resolve disputes about family issues. More…

How can mediation help?

  • Family mediators can help resolve child custody and access, child and spousal support and property issues. Some family mediators can also help with child protection disputes, although they require additional qualifications. At the beginning of the mediation, the parties will discuss which issue(s) will be addressed.
  • Private family mediation services may be available where you live. Mediators come from different professions (e.g. social workers, psychologists, lawyers) and their fees vary. Find a private mediator in your area.
  • Family mediation services are also available through family courts across Ontario. Find a service provider in your area.

Is a mediation agreement binding?

  • Mediation agreements are not binding until they have been incorporated into a written agreement or a court order.
  • Both parties should obtain independent legal advice before the agreement is finalized to ensure they understand their rights and obligations, as well as the effect of the proposed agreement.

How long does mediation take?

  • The mediation process is flexible and can take one session or many. If the issues are complex, a number of meetings may be needed in order to come to a resolution.

How much does mediation cost?

  • Private family mediation services may be available where you live. Mediators come from different professions (e.g. social workers, psychologists, lawyers) and their fees vary.
  • Mediation services are also available at family court locations across Ontario. On-site services are available free of charge. Fees are charged for off-site mediation services on a sliding scale.

Where can I find a mediator?

  • Mediation services are available at family court locations across Ontario. Find a service provider in your area.
  • The Ontario Association for Family Mediation website offers a list of private mediators in areas across Ontario.
  • Family mediators come from different professional backgrounds. They may be lawyers, social workers, psychologists, or financial professionals, like accountants. More…

What is collaborative family law?

  • Collaborative family law is a process that helps people resolve disputes without going to court. In collaborative family law, the parties and their lawyers generally hold a series of meetings to negotiate a settlement. In some circumstances, the parties can hire experts jointly to help resolve issues in dispute.

How do I find a collaborative family law lawyer?

What is the difference between collaborative family law and arbitration?

  • Collaborative family law is a process where lawyers helps parties reach their own agreement about issues in dispute without going to court.  It leaves the decision making in the hands of the parties.  It requires a commitment from both parties to resolve the outstanding issues in a principled manner.  With arbitration, decisions are made by arbitrator after reviewing the evidence of the parties.

How do I find out more about collaborative family law?

Child Support Payments

What do I need to know about child support?

  • Both parents have a responsibility to financially support their children. If you do not have custody, the amount of child support you must pay is based on your income and the number of children. More…

How do I get child support?

  • If parents agree on what child support can be paid, they can make a separation agreement that sets out how much support will be paid and for how long. If they don't agree, the parent seeking support can start an application in court and request an order for child support.

What is child support based on?

  • Under the Child Support Guidelines, child support is determined based on the annual income of the paying parent and the number of children who are entitled to support.
  • The court also has flexibility to order a different amount in certain limited circumstances, such as in cases of shared custody or undue hardship. More…

Where can I find the Ontario Child Support Amounts?

My child is about to turn 18, can I still get child support for him or her?

  • Maybe.
  • Under Ontario law, children are usually entitled to support up to the age of majority (18), and for a period of time following if the child is attending school full-time.
  • Where a child is over 18, the amount of the payment may be adjusted if it is inappropriate in light of the child's needs and/or the parents' financial circumstances.

My former spouse has made a request for child support. What documents do I need to provide regarding my income?

  • Under the Child Support Guidelines, you must provide your income tax returns and notices of assessment for the last three years, as well as documentation of your earnings to date for the current year.
  • If you are self-employed or control a company, additional documents are required. If you are involved in a court case, you must file a financial statement as well. More…

How are child support orders enforced?

  • Child support orders from Ontario courts are enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
  • When support payments are not being made in accordance with a court order or separation agreement that has been filed with the court, FRO or the support recipient can take steps to collect money owed, including obtaining payments directly from an employer or filing writs against property.

What is the Family Responsibility Office (FRO)?

  • The goal of the Family Responsibility Office is to help families in Ontario receive the financial support they are entitled to by enforcing court ordered support responsibilities.

How do I register a support order?

  • When an Ontario court orders one person to pay support for a child, spouse or parent, the support order is automatically sent to the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to be enforced.

How do I register a domestic contract?

  • If you have a separation agreement and would like the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) to enforce the terms of your contract on your behalf, you can file it with the court and then register with the FRO.

Where can I find the forms I need?

  • The Family Responsibility Office has commonly used forms available. More…

How can I report a parent who is defaulting on payments?

  • You can help Ontario children and families by helping the Family Responsibility Office find missing, irresponsible parents who have defaulted on the payments owed to their kids. More…

Can I make my support payments directly to my spouse?

  • Support payments can be made directly to your spouse if he or she agrees not to have them made through the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
  • If a support order has been made, both parties must complete and sign a Notice of Withdrawal and send it to the FRO.

I have a child support order from another province/territory, is it valid here?

  • Yes.
  • Orders that were made in other provinces or territories under the federal Divorce Act are automatically recognized in Ontario.
  • However, in order to have those orders enforced in Ontario, they must be registered with the Family Responsibility Office.
  • Orders that have been made under provincial legislation must be registered with the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Unit for enforcement.
  • More information on this process.

My former spouse is not paying the child support required by our separation agreement. What should I do?

  • To have support payments in a separation agreement enforced, you should file your agreement with the Ontario Court of Justice or the Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice.
  • After the agreement is filed with the court, you should forward the order to the Family Responsibility Office for enforcement.

My income has changed. How do I have my child support order adjusted?

  • To change the amount of child support, you will need to get an order reflecting the new amount.
  • You can determine the appropriate amount of child support based on your income by reviewing the Child Support Guidelines.
  • If you and your former spouse agree on the new amount, you can bring a motion to change on consent. If not, you can bring a motion to change and a judge will determine what amount of child support should be paid.
  • More information on the forms that must be filed to request a change in support.
  • If the Family Responsibility Office is enforcing the support order, it will continue to collect the existing amount until the order is changed.

Can I change a child support order from another province, territory or country?

  • If a province, territory or country has entered into a formal arrangement with Ontario to enforce each other's support orders, they are known as a reciprocating jurisdiction.
  • An order from a reciprocating jurisdiction can be changed under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act.
  • More information about changing a support order from a reciprocating jurisdiction.

How do I stop an order for child support now that the child is an adult?

  • Some support orders or separation agreements set out a specific date or event when support will end (e.g. a child leaving school). This is called a terminating event.
  • If you believe that a terminating event has occurred, you should contact the Family Responsibility Office to inquire about stopping support payments.
  • If the order or agreement does not contain a terminating event, you need either the consent of your former spouse, or a court order to end your support payments.
  • If your former spouse does not agree, you may need to file a motion to change in order to stop the support payments.

Spousal Support

How do I get spousal support?

  • If both spouses agree on what spousal support will be paid, they can make a separation agreement that sets out how much support will be paid and for how long. If they don't agree, the spouse seeking support can start an application in court and request an order for spousal support.
  • More information about when spousal support orders are made and how the amount of spousal support is calculated.

How are spousal support orders enforced?

  • Spousal support orders from Ontario courts are enforced by the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
  • If support payments are not being made in accordance with a court order or separation agreement that has been filed with the court, the FRO or the support recipient can take steps to collect the money that is owed, which can include obtaining payments directly from an employer or filing writs against property.
  • More information on enforcement of support orders.

Can I make my support payments directly to the support recipient?

  • Support payments can be made directly to the recipient if he or she agrees not to have them made through the Family Responsibility Office (FRO).
  • If a support order has been made, both parties must complete and sign a Notice of Withdrawal and send it to the FRO.

I have a spousal support order from another province/territory, is it valid here?

  • Yes.
  • Orders that were made in other provinces or territories under the federal Divorce Act are automatically recognized in Ontario.
  • However, in order to have those orders enforced in Ontario, they must be registered with the Family Responsibility Office. Orders that have been made under provincial legislation must be registered with the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Unit for enforcement.

My former spouse is not paying spousal support as required by our separation agreement, what should I do?

  • A separation agreement can be filed with the Ontario Court of Justice or Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice for the support payments to be enforced.
  • After the agreement is filed with the court, you can forward the order to the Family Responsibility Office for enforcement.

How do I have my spousal support order adjusted?

  • To change the amount of spousal support, you will need to get an order reflecting the new amount.
  • If your former spouse agrees, you can bring a motion to change on consent. If not, you can bring a motion to change and a judge will determine whether the support payment should be changed.
  • In order to have the payment changed, you will need to show the court that there has been a significant change in circumstances that affects the amount of the payment being made.
  • If the Family Responsibility Office is enforcing the support order, they will continue to collect the existing amount until the order has been changed.

Can I change a spousal support order from another province, territory or country?

  • If a province, territory or country has entered into a formal arrangement with Ontario to enforce each other's support orders, they are known as a reciprocating jurisdiction.
  • An order from a reciprocating jurisdiction can be changed under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act.
  • More information about changing a support order from a reciprocating jurisdiction.

Spousal Abuse/Child Abuse

Where can I get information on spousal abuse?

  • Spousal abuse is a tragedy that affects everyone in our society. This website provides advice and assistance to women in abusive situations, their families and friends, and answers questions about spousal abuse. More…

How can I protect my child from my spouse?

  • We all share the responsibility to protect children from harm. But protecting children from harm is more than just a moral responsibility, it's the law. More…

What is a Children's Aid Society?

  • A Children's Aid Society, also named Family and Children's Services in some communities, is a non-profit corporation with a duty to provide help and support to children who may be in need of protection, and their families. More…

What can I do if I'm concerned about a child's welfare?

  • If you have a reasonable suspicion that a child may need protection, please call your local Children's Aid Society immediately. More…
  • The telephone number for your local Children's Aid Society can usually be found in the front of your telephone directory.

Who can help if I've been abused by my partner?

  • If you fear for your safety, you can call the police. If the police are contacted, certain processes and procedures will follow. More…
  • You can also go to your family court and bring an urgent motion for an order for exclusive possession of your home (if you are married) and/or an order restraining your spouse from contacting you. A restraining order can be general or specific. For example, a judge can order that your spouse stay away from you or not come to your home, work or the children's school. If you are fearful for your immediate safety, you can ask for a restraining order on an urgent basis.
  • If your spouse disobeys the restraining order, you can call the police and your spouse can be arrested. You will need to make sure you have a copy of the restraining order with you at all times.
  • If you are feeling threatened by an abusive partner, ex-partner, co-worker and/or are being stalked, consider creating a safety plan. More…
  • Leaving the abuse behind is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are, of course, many factors to be considered. More…
  • The Assaulted Women's Helpline is a 24-hour telephone and TTY crisis line for women in the province of Ontario. More…
  • FEMAIDE is a 24-hour telephone and TTY crisis line for Francophone women in Ontario. More…

I am afraid that my ex will try to hurt me or my children. What can I do?

  • The Assaulted Women's Helpline is a 24-hour telephone and TTY crisis line for women in the province of Ontario. More…
  • Violence Against Women Shelters - Find a women's shelter for emergency housing and food. Shelters also provide counselling, support and referrals. Ontario 211 has a list of domestic violence women’s shelters.
  • If you are feeling threatened by an abusive partner, ex-partner, co-worker and/or are being stalked, consider creating a safety plan. More…
  • Leaving the abuse behind is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are, of course, many factors to be considered. More…
  • You can also ask the court for a restraining order to try to prevent your spouse from contacting you. A restraining order can be general or specific. For example, a judge can order that your spouse stay away from you or not come to your home, work or the children's school. If you are fearful for your immediate safety, you can ask for a restraining order on an urgent basis.
  • If your spouse disobeys the restraining order, you can call the police and your spouse can be arrested. You will need to make sure you have a copy of the restraining order with you at all times.

My spouse is refusing to leave the house we own together. What can I do?

  • If you are married, you can ask the court to make an order for exclusive possession, which would give you the right to live in your home and require your spouse to leave, even if the home is in your spouse's name. You may have to pay your spouse rent while you live in the home. Before the judge will order your spouse to leave the home, the judge will consider a number of factors, including whether there was any violence in your relationship. It is a good idea to speak to a lawyer before asking for an order for exclusive possession of your home.

There was violence in my relationship with my ex. Will this affect who gets custody of the children?

  • In deciding the custody and access arrangements that are in the best interests of the child, the judge must consider whether a parent has at any time been violent or abusive toward a child, a spouse or the other parent. You should speak with a lawyer before asking for an order for custody and access.

I am afraid my ex will try to hurt me when he picks the children up at my house for access visits. What can I do?

  • You can ask the court to make an order for supervised access exchanges and for those exchanges to take place at a supervised access centre. Staff are available at supervised access centres to help to transfer the children between you and your spouse so that you do not have any contact with one another. More…

What can I do to help if I think my neighbours are abusing their child?

Seniors

Where can I find out about elder abuse?

How can I help a senior who is being abused by their children?

  • The Victim Support Line is a province-wide, multilingual, toll-free information line providing a range of services to victims of crime. More…
  • The Ontario Association of Crime Stoppers has partnered with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to develop a Seniors Crime Stoppers program. More…

Ontario Provincial Police Tip Sheets

Help for Incapable Family Members

What do I do if a family member is incapable of taking care of themselves?

  • Mental incapacity is when someone cannot understand relevant information or cannot appreciate what may happen as a result of decisions they make - or do not make - about their finances, health or personal care. More…

How does the law define mental incapacity?

  • The law defines mental incapacity as the inability to understand the information that is relevant to a decision or to appreciate the consequences of a decision. More…

I'm concerned about someone's well being - what do I do?

What happens when someone is deemed incapable?

  • " Information on how decisions are made on behalf of a person who has been deemed incapable of making decisions regarding their finances, property, or health. More…

What does the Capacity Assessment Office do?

  • " The Capacity Assessment Office trains eligible health professionals to be capacity assessors in accordance with the Substitute Decisions Act. More…

What is a power of attorney?

  • A Power of Attorney is a legal document that gives someone else the right to act on your behalf. More…

Why do I need a power of attorney?

  • Many people believe their families will be able to step in if something happens and they cannot make decisions for themselves. This isn't always true. More…

Where can I get a power of attorney kit?

Are there different kinds of power of attorney?

  • Yes. In Ontario there are three kinds of Power of Attorney:
    1. Continuing Power of Attorney for Property
    2. Power of Attorney for Personal Care
    3. Non-continuing Power of Attorney for Property
  • More information on the types of power of attorney is available here.

What if I don't want a power of attorney?

  • No one can make you sign a power of attorney if you don't want to. But, if you don't choose one, the government may have to appoint someone to make certain decisions for you.
  • It's better if you choose someone you feel you can really trust, who knows your wishes.

What is a living will?

  • The expression "living will" is sometimes used to refer to a document in which you write down what you want to happen if you become ill and can't communicate your wishes about treatment. More…

Where can I find out more about powers of attorney and living wills?

  • The Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee has created a set of frequently asked questions about powers of attorney and living wills. More…

Sample Courtroom Layout


Superior Court of Justice - Family Court


Ontario Court of Justice - Family Court


Information and Resources

What You Should Know About Family Law in Ontario (available in 9 languages).

Legal Aid Ontario's Family Law Information Program, is a free online resource for families, former spouses and partners about to enter the family justice system.

More about divorce and separation.

Visit the nearest Family Law Information Centre.

Ontario's family court structure

Guide to procedures in Family Court

Guide for Self-Represented Litigants in Ontario Court of Justice Family Court Trials

This Guide is intended to help you represent yourself in a family law trial at the Ontario Court of Justice. Please be aware that this is basic information. It is not legal advice and it does not cover every situation that may come up in your trial.

Family law is very complex. If you can, it is extremely important that you hire a lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected. If you can’t hire a lawyer for your entire trial, you should consider consulting a lawyer for specific issues.

How do I change my child's name?

Ontario Family Court addresses

Ontario Family Law Court forms

Laws in Ontario

Laws in Canada

Visit our legal glossary for a basic guide to common legal terms.

Looking for information about your upcoming court appearance? Access daily court lists here. (Please note: Online court lists for weekend bail courts are not available at this time.)

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Disclaimer

Links are provided as a service and are not legal advice. For legal advice, please read more about finding a lawyer. Links marked with a globe point to external Web sites that are not maintained by the Government of Ontario. Related comments or inquiries regarding those sites should be directed to the individual organization. If you discover a broken link, please let us know.