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Access is the time a parent spends with a child they usually don’t live with. Access can be on a strict schedule, such as every other weekend, or on a flexible schedule, such as whenever the parents agree. In some cases, a parent might have supervised access where someone else watches the visit.

Access also includes the right to get information on the child’s health, education, and well-being. Getting information is not the same thing as making major decisions about the child.

Other people, for example, grandparents, can also apply to the court for access.

Advice counsel

Advice counsel are private lawyers or Legal Aid Ontario staff lawyers located in all family courts who give basic information on family law. For example, advice counsel can explain legal terms, how to start or respond to a court application, and the court process.

If your income is low enough, advice counsel can also give you legal advice about child custody and access, child support and spousal support, dividing property, divorce, and most other family law matters.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) refers to different ways or processes that help solve your issues without going to court. Some of these processes are collaborative family law, mediation, and arbitration.


Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution process where partners meet with a neutral person, called an arbitrator, to solve their issues without going to court. An arbitrator is usually a lawyer. A non-lawyer can also be an arbitrator if they have special family law training. If you and your partner cannot reach an agreement, the arbitrator makes a decision to solve your issues. Their decision is called a family arbitration award.


Assets are money and anything you own that has value and can be exchanged for money. This can include cars, jewellery, property, and investments such as an RRSP or a pension plan.

Balance of probabilities

Balance of probabilities is the standard or legal test of proof usually required in a family law case. The judge has to decide who is more believable - you or your partner.

Best interests of the child

The best interests of the child is a test that the court uses to decide things about children, such as custody and access.

Case conference

A case conference is a meeting between a judge and you and your partner, and your lawyers if you have any. The purposes of a case conference include:

  • figuring out the issues that need to be solved in your case
  • talking about ways to solve those issues without going to a trial
  • figuring out the information you and your partner need to share

Child support

Child support is the amount of money that one parent pays to the other parent to support their child financially. The money is paid to the parent who has the child living with them most of the time. The person who pays child support is called the payor parent.

The amount of child support that the payor parent pays is usually based on the Child Support Guidelines.

Child Support Guidelines

The Child Support Guidelines are the rules used to calculate how much child support a parent pays to help support their child financially.

The Guidelines include amounts of monthly child support that are based on the income of the parent who is paying support and the number of children they have to support. There is a separate table with amounts for each province. The table amounts cover expenses like clothes, food, and basic school supplies.

The Guidelines also include special or extraordinary expenses that may be paid in addition to the table amounts.

Children's Aid Society
A Children’s Aid Society (CAS) is a government agency that has a legal duty to make sure that children are protected from harm. In some places in Ontario, these agencies are called Child and Family Services.
Closing statement

A closing statement is a summary of your evidence that you give the judge to tell them why you should get the court order you’re asking for. It can only refer to the evidence that you, your partner, or other witnesses talked about at trial. It cannot contain any new information.

Collaborative family law

Collaborative family law is an alternative dispute resolution process where you and your partner try to solve your issues without going to court. Collaborative family lawyers have special training and agree in writing not to go to court. You and your partner each have your own collaborative family lawyer. They work together with you and your partner to help you agree on your issues. Usually, this happens after many meetings.

If you or your partner cannot agree and later decide to go to court, you cannot use your collaborative family lawyers as your lawyers in court.

Common-law relationship

A common-law relationship is one where partners of the same or opposite sex live together in a marriage-like relationship, without being married. This is sometimes called “cohabiting”. You don’t have to live together for a certain amount of time to be in a common-law relationship. But the law gives different rights to common-law partners depending on how long they’ve lived together or whether they have a child together.

Consent order

A consent order is a type of court order that is based on what the parties in the court case agree to.

Cost consequences

Cost consequences are when one party has to pay some or all of the legal costs of the other party. Legal costs usually include lawyer’s fees. It might also include other costs paid, such as the fee paid to have a pension valued.

The court decides when to make a court order for cost consequences. For example, it might order you to pay some of your partner's costs if it made the court order that your partner asked for.

Court clerk

The court clerk is a person at the courthouse responsible for things like issuing documents, maintaining court files, and setting court dates.

Court order

A court order is a decision made by a judge that requires a party to do something or not do something. A court order can be a temporary order or a final order.

Cross examination

Cross-examination is when one party, or their lawyer if they have one, questions the other party’s witnesses. The purpose of cross-examination is to test how true and reliable a witness’ answers are.


Custody is the right of a parent to make important decisions about how to care for and raise a child. It includes the right to make decisions about the child’s health, education, and religion. Custody is not about which parent the child lives with or how much time a child spends with each parent.

There are different types of custody. Sole custody means only one parent has the right to make these decisions. Joint custody means both parents have the right to make these decisions.

Other people, for example, grandparents, can also apply to the court for custody.


Debts are money that a person owes, for example, a mortgage, line of credit, car loan, etc.

Direct examination

Direct examination is when one party, or their lawyer if they have one, questions their own witnesses. These are witnesses you ask to testify or speak in support of your court case. Direct examination is also called examination-in-chief.

Divide property

Property division is the process of dividing a married couple’s assets and debts. This usually happens after they separate or divorce.

Married couples usually share the value of their property. This means that the partner who has more property usually pays money to the partner who has less property. Usually, the property itself is not physically divided.

This is not true for people in a common-law relationship. They usually don’t have to share the value of their property if they separate.


A divorce is a court order that ends a marriage legally. Sometimes, you don’t need to go to court, but at least one partner needs to fill out court paperwork to get the divorce order.

Duty counsel

Duty counsel are private lawyers or Legal Aid Ontario staff lawyers who give legal help right away to people who appear in court that day without a lawyer if their income is low enough. They give free legal advice and can help negotiate and settle issues, but they can’t take on a whole case or represent a person at trial.


An endorsement is the written directions a judge gives you and your partner that says what you must do or not do. It is usually handwritten and put in your court file.

To make an endorsement into a court order, you or your partner prepare a document called a draft order, that you both sign. You must do this if you want an order that is enforceable. This means the court can order you or your partner to do what the court order says. Sometimes the court clerk prepares the draft order.

Ex parte motion

An ex parte motion, sometimes called an emergency motion, is when you bring an urgent motion without notice to your partner. This means you don’t have to serve your documents on your partner before the judge hears the motion and makes a decision. The reason for not requiring service may be because of immediate safety issues or because the delay would likely lead to something serious happening. You can only bring this type of motion in limited situations. For example, if you feel there is an immediate risk that your partner will seriously harm you or your children, or leave the province or country with your children and not bring them back.

Exclusive possession

Exclusive possession is a court order that says only one partner can stay in, or return to, the home and the other partner isn’t allowed on the property. If there are children, usually the order also includes that the children are allowed on the property. The order is usually temporary. The court doesn't decide who owns the home or who rented it when deciding which partner can stay in it.

Family Responsibility Office (FRO)

The Family Responsibility Office (FRO) is a government agency that enforces child support and spousal support payments. They collect support directly from the person who has to pay support, keep a record of the amounts paid, and then pay that amount to the person who has to get support.

If your partner misses payments, the FRO can take action to enforce your court order or separation agreement on support payments. For example, the FRO can take money from their bank account, suspend their driver's licence, or start a court case that can put them in jail.

Family violence

Family violence refers to the many different forms of abuse, neglect, or harm that an adult or child may experience in their close, personal relationships. It is also called domestic violence or partner abuse when one partner abuses the other partner.


Filing your court documents means giving your court forms and documents to a court clerk at the courthouse to add to your court file. Every court form you fill out and all relevant documents you want a judge to look at have to be filed in court.

Financial statement

A financial statement is a court form that has details about your income, expenses, assets, and debts. Usually, you and your partner each need to fill out a financial statement form if either of you are asking for a court order for one or all of the following:

Independent legal advice

Independent legal advice (ILA) is when you and your partner get your own legal advice from different lawyers. The advice is independent because each lawyer is only working for one of you.

It is important to get ILA before you sign a separation agreement because:

  • a lawyer can tell you how your rights change once you sign the agreement
  • your agreement is less likely to be challenged later
  • a court is more likely to order you and your partner to do what you agreed on in your separation agreement

Most court forms that start a court process have to be issued. For example, your Application form has to be issued to start a court case. Your form is issued when the court clerk gives you a court file number and signs, dates, and applies the court seal to the upper left corner of your original form.

Joint custody

Joint custody is a type of custody where both parents must agree on important decisions that affect their child. It includes decisions about the child’s health, education, and religion. One parent cannot decide these things without the other parent agreeing.

Other people, for example, grandparents, can also apply to the court for custody.