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I've left my abusive partner. How does an abusive relationship affect my family law issues?

Question
I've left my abusive partner. How does an abusive relationship affect my family law issues?

Glossary

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Reviewed: 
May, 2016
Answer

Partner abuse can affect your family law issues in many important ways:

  • It can make it difficult to talk with your partner safely and fairly when trying to resolve family law issues like child custody and access or spousal support.
  • It can affect the process you choose to use to resolve your issues. For example, whether you choose to try an out of court option with a family law professional, or to go to court.
  • It can affect how your issues are resolved. You and your partner can agree on what happens, or a family court judge or family arbitrator can decide what happens.For example, your partner's access to your children may be limited if they physically abused your children. Or, a history of financial abuse may affect how the children's expenses are paid.
  • It can affect the type of evidence you have to give to explain your safety concerns.

Other issues

If you or your partner are not Canadian citizens, it may complicate your situation. See the question on Will I be forced to leave Canada if I leave my partner? You can talk to an immigration lawyer about how your legal status in Canada may be affected by leaving an abusive relationship.

Partner abuse cases can also be complicated if your partner is charged with a crime related to their abuse. See the question on What if I have family court and criminal court issues happening at the same time?

Talk to a lawyer

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for everything, some lawyers provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with only certain things, like getting a restraining order or drafting a court document.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you might be able to find legal help in other places. You can also find emotional, safety planning, and housing help when leaving an abusive relationship.

If you have experienced family violence and need immediate legal help, you might be able to get 2 hours of free advice from a lawyer. 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.

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.

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