Glossary - Family Law

balance of probabilities

In Family Law

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

In Child abuse and neglect, Domestic violence, Family Law

The “best interests of the child” is a legal test used to decide many things about children. The test is different for different family law issues.

For example, when making decisions about decision-making responsibility and parenting time, which used to be called custody and access, some of the things the test considers are:

  • the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological safety, security, and well-being
  • the relationship between each parent and the child
  • the child’s views and wishes, unless there’s no way to find out what they are
  • if there’s been abuse against any family member or any child

In child protection cases involving the Children’s Aid Society, some of the things the test considers are:

  • the child’s views and wishes, unless there’s no way to find out what they are
  • the importance of keeping the child’s identity and connection to their community and culture if they are First Nations, Inuk, or Métis, even if they’re not an official member of the community
  • race, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, family diversity, sex, and sexual orientation
case conference

In Family Law

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 in need of protection

In Abuse and Family Violence, Child abuse and neglect, Family Law

This is a child who has been or is at risk of being harmed because of something that their parent or caregiver has done or not done.

The law says a child is “in need of protection” only when one or more specific conditions are met.  For example, it says a child might be in need of protection if at least one of the following is true:

  • they suffered from physical harm because of what a parent did
  • there is a risk that they will likely suffer physical harm because of what a parent does
  • they have been sexually abused by a parent
  • there is a risk that they will likely be sexually abused by a parent

If the court decides that a child is in need of protection, it can make an order that it thinks in in the child’s best interests. For example, it can order that the child be placed in the care of the Children’s Aid Society.

child support

In Family Law

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

In Family Law

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

In Abuse and Family Violence, Child abuse and neglect, Family Law

The Children’s Aid Society (CAS) has a legal duty to make sure that children are protected from harm. The government has given them this job. In some places in Ontario, CAS is called Child and Family Services.

closing statement

In Child abuse and neglect, Domestic violence, Family Law

At the end of your trial, you get a chance to briefly tell the judge why you should get the court order you’re asking for. This is called a closing statement. Your closing statement should be based on: 

  • what you or other witnesses said
  • the documents used as evidence
  • family law rules and laws

You cannot talk about any new information that wasn’t used as evidence in the trial.

cohabitation agreement

In Family Law

A cohabitation agreement, sometimes called a domestic contract, is a written contract that non-married partners can make that says how they will deal with their issues while they are living together, after they stop living together, or if one of them dies. They can make this kind of contract before living together, or while living together. For example, a cohabitation agreement can say how much spousal support one partner will pay the other if they separate. It cannot say who will have custody or access to any children.

collaborative family law

In 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.

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