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About these flowcharts

Have you separated from your partner? Are you thinking about starting a family law court case to resolve your legal issues? Or, has your partner started a family law court case against you? Steps in a Family Law Case can help you understand and work through the family law court process in Ontario.

Click on any box on the flowcharts to learn about what happens at that step in the process and what you may need to do. You can return to the flowchart at any time to see what the next step is and where you are in the court process. Some of the site's other tools and features are explained here.

These flowcharts apply only to cases dealing with child custody and access, child support, spousal support, and dividing property. They do not show the court process if you only want a divorce, or for family law issues like adoption and child protection.

Steps in a Family Law Case is a set of 3 interactive flowcharts:

Before you start flowchart

Before you start flowchart Before you start flowchart

This flowchart has basic information on the common things most people have to decide when they separate or divorce. It shows you what you can do if you and your partner agree on your issues and what to do if you don't. It explains Ontario’s family law court structure and gives information on which court can help you.

Applicant flowchart

Applicant flowchart Applicant flowchart

This flowchart helps you understand how to start a family law case and continue through the court process until you have a court order. It also lets you know what to do if you:

  • need a court order quickly
  • want to change your court order
  • want to resolve your issues out of court

Respondent flowchart

Respondent flowchart Respondent flowchart

This flowchart helps you understand how to respond to a family law case that has been started against you and continue through the court process until you have a court order. It also lets you know what to do if you:

  • need a court order quickly
  • want to change your court order
  • want to resolve your issues out of court

These flowcharts have basic information about the steps in a typical family law case in Ontario. They are only a guide. What you have to do at each step depends on the facts of your case.

To get legal information and help before you make decisions or even before you talk to a lawyer, read Getting legal help for more information.

Court forms

You can get family law court forms from the courthouse or online. They are available in French and English.

Family laws and rules

Family Law Rules apply to each step in the family court process. Reading them can help you as you fill out court forms and go through the court process.

The laws that apply to family law are found in the Divorce Act, the Family Law Act, the Children’s Law Reform Act, and the Child and Family Services Act. Some family law also comes from written decisions of judges, known as “case law”.

Family Violence

If you’ve experienced family violence, you may need to think about things like making plans to leave home to keep you and your children safe and bringing an emergency motion to deal with custody or safety related issues. The Step What if you need a court order quickly? gives you more information about how to bring an emergency motion.

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) also has a Family Violence Authorization Program. Under this program, you may qualify for a free 2-hour session with a lawyer if you’ve experienced family violence and need immediate legal help.