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're in the court process. Some of the site's other tools and features are explained here.
Steps in a Family Law Case is a set of 3 interactive flowcharts:
Before you start flowchart
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.
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.
Some of 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, Youth and Family Services Act as well as Regulations. Some family law also comes from written decisions of judges, known as “case law”.
Some courts also have Practice Directions about how the court process works at that court. These are rules that those courts have to follow.
If you’ve experienced family violence, you may need to think about things like making a safety plan to keep you and your children safe at home, at work, and online. You may also need to make plans to leave your home safely.
If you need to bring an emergency motion to deal with custody or safety related issues, the Step What if you need a court order quickly? has more information on how to do this.
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) also has a Family Violence Authorization Program. Under this program, you may qualify for 2 hours of free advice with a lawyer if you’ve experienced family violence and need immediate legal help. This service is offered through some women's shelters, community legal clinics, and Family Law Service Centres. Or you can call Legal Aid Ontario toll-free at 1-800-668-8258 to find out more.