Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has services to give legal help to people with very low incomes. To get help, you must meet the financial eligibility test. You have to give LAO information about any income, property, or savings that you have.
Legal aid certificates
To get your own lawyer paid for by LAO, you must apply for a legal aid certificate.
But your family law issue must be one that LAO covers. For example, you usually can't get a certificate to pay for a divorce. But you may be able to get a certificate for custody, access, or support issues.
If you have a legal aid certificate, this means that LAO pays a lawyer to work for you. Most legal aid certificates say what work and the number of hours LAO will pay for. You may have to pay for services and hours that are not covered by your certificate. The amount you may have to pay depends on your income and assets.
Not all lawyers accept legal aid certificates. You have to find a lawyer who agrees to work for you and accepts your legal aid certificate.
Family violence certificates
If you have experienced partner abuse and need immediate legal help, you can get a free two-hour consultation with a lawyer through the Family Violence Authorization Program. The program is offered through some women’s shelters, community legal clinics, Family Law Service Centres, and by calling LAO toll-free at 1-800-668-8258 to find out more.
Sexual Assault Survivors Pilot Program
If you have experienced sexual abuse and live in Toronto, Ottawa, or Thunder Bay, you might be able to get 4 hours of free advice from a lawyer. You have to complete a voucher request form. Or you can call the Independent Legal Advice for Sexual Assault Survivors Pilot Program at 1-855-226-3904 to find out more.
Separation agreement certificates
LAO may cover the cost of up to 10 hours with a family lawyer to help negotiate and draft a separation agreement.
LAO may cover the cost up to 6 hours with a family lawyer to help clients using mediation. A lawyer can help before, during, and after you sign a mediation agreement.
In person help centres and services
Family duty counsel
There are family duty counsel available in many court locations in Ontario. They can give advice, speak to the court on your behalf, or help you negotiate a settlement. They can't represent you at trial.
Family advice counsel
There are family advice counsel available in many court locations in Ontario. Advice counsel can give you general information about your legal issues. If you're financial eligible, they may be able to give you legal advice specific to your case.
Family Law Service Centres
LAO has 9 regional Family Law Service Centres that have staff lawyers and legal workers who can help prepare court documents, provide referral information, and help with applications for a legal aid certificate.
Family Law Offices
LAO has 3 Family Law Offices where lawyers and paralegals assist people with family court cases. These offices accept legal aid certificates.