Services in Ontario - Separation and divorce
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) – Family Law Services
Contact InformationPhone 416-979-1446 Toll-free 1‑800‑668‑8258 TTY 711
LAO has services for people with low incomes who have family law problems. This includes:
- a free summary advice line that can give you up to 20 minutes of information and general advice about your family law matter
- family duty counsel who can give you free legal advice if you don’t have a lawyer on the day of your hearing
- a legal aid certificate program if you have a low income and if your legal issue is one that LAO covers
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) – Legal aid certificates
Contact InformationPhone 416-979-1446 Toll-free 1-800-668-8258 TTY 711
If you get a legal aid certificate, this means that LAO pays a lawyer to work for you. To get a certificate you must show that you have a low income by giving information about your income, property, and savings.
And, your legal issue must be one that LAO covers. You may get a certificate for some legal issues about:
- domestic violence
- family law
- criminal law
- immigration law
- refugee law
To apply for a legal aid certificate:
Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) – Family duty counsel
Contact InformationPhone 416-979-1446 Toll-free 1-800-668-8258 TTY 711
Family duty counsel give free legal advice to people who don’t have a lawyer on the day of their hearing and who have a low income. Family duty counsel are paid for by LAO and are at every family law court.
They can’t represent you at a trial, but they can:
- give legal advice and information about the court process
- help work out an agreement
- review and help prepare court documents
- help in the courtroom for certain things like asking for your case to be postponed, and at child protection hearings and hearings related to child and spousal support
- help in hearings before a trial for issues like custody, access, child protection, or support, when the issues are not complicated
- make referrals to other sources of help, such as mediation or finding your own lawyer
Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General – Family Mediation
Contact InformationPhone 416-326-2220 Toll-free 1-800-518-7901 TTY 416-326-4012 Toll-free TTY 1-877-425-0575
Family mediation services are available at family court locations in Ontario. Even if you don’t have a court case, you can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee based on your income. If you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free at court.
You don’t need to be referred to mediation by a judge. Mediation is a voluntary process that all parties must agree to use, to try and resolve issues such as:
- how and when to separate
- custody and access
- child support
- spousal support
- dividing property
For more information, go to the Family Law Information Centre at the courthouse and speak with the Information and Referral Coordinator.
Contact InformationPhone 416-593-5393
In Toronto, mediate393 provides government-funded mediation and information services at the:
- Superior Court of Justice at 393 University Avenue, and
- Ontario Court of Justice at 311 Jarvis Street and 47 Sheppard Avenue
If you don’t have a court case, you can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee based on your income. If you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free at court.
Visit their website for more details.
Family Law Information Centres (FLIC)
FLIC’s are available in every court in Ontario that deals with family law. All have free pamphlets. Many have staff who can:
- tell you about community and legal services
- explain the court process
- tell you about ways to solve legal issues without going to court
Some FLICs have advice lawyers at certain times. These are lawyers paid by Legal Aid Ontario to answer questions, give general legal advice, and review legal documents on family law issues.
Ontario Legal Information Centre
Contact InformationPhone 613-842-7462 Toll-free 1-844-343-7462
The Ontario Legal Information Centre offers a free 30-minute meeting with a lawyer to anyone in Ontario by telephone or in person at their Ottawa office in English or French. They can provide legal information in any legal topic, and referrals to services. You have to leave a message and a lawyer will call you back.
Law Society Referral Service
The Law Society of Ontario has on online Law Society Referral Service that gives you the name of a lawyer or licensed paralegal who will give free legal advice for up to 30 minutes in any area of law.
If you can’t wait for a legal representative to call you back, or if you don’t have a call-back number, email email@example.com. Or, if you’re in crisis or in custody, call 1-855-947-5255 or 416-947-5255, Monday to Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Ontario Women’s Legal Centre
Contact InformationToll-free 1-833-632-0838
The Center offers free legal information and legal summary advice about family law, immigration and refugee law, housing law, and criminal law in cases of sexual assault in French to Francophone women in Ontario who are experiencing family violence. There is no financial eligibility test.
You must first call or email the legal support worker who will ask you for some information to understand your legal issue. A lawyer will call you back, usually within 4-5 days. The lawyer will spend up to 4 hours to answer your questions, give you advice, and review documents and forms.
The Centre also offers what’s called limited scope retainer or unbundled services. This means you pay a lawyer to help you with part of your case.
Canadian Council of Muslim Women
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women provides Muslim women in Canada with culturally appropriate referrals to legal information and advice in family law, as well as with other issues like housing, mental health, and food bank services. It includes referrals to lawyers, as well as imams and social services organizations such as shelters. You have to email this intake form, and the service will try to respond within 24 hours.
Law Society of Ontario – Lawyer and Paralegal Directory
Ontario’s Family Law Limited Scope Services Project
The website has a directory of family law lawyers that provide unbundled services. You can search by location, name, and language.
Unbundled services can also be called limited scope services, unbundled legal services, or legal coaching. This means you pay a lawyer to help you with part of your case, for example:
- Legal advice: meeting with a lawyer to get advice on what your legal options are
- Preparing documents: a lawyer prepares your documents, for example, a court application or a separation agreement
- Appearances: a lawyer represents you in legal situations, for example, at a court hearing, or at a case conference
- Coaching: a lawyer guides you through the court process, or explains how to submit evidence
The Advice and Settlement Counsel (ASC)
The Advice and Settlement Counsel (ASC) provides people who don’t have a lawyer with 1 hour of advice with a lawyer for $200 plus HST. The service can help you:
- prepare for a court attendance, case conference, or motion
- negotiate consents when both parties are present
- give advice about potential settlements, drafting agreements, and court procedures
- give advice on a consent you have negotiated with a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) or at mediation, court conference, or motion
- prepare “to do” lists so that you understand what steps need to be taken next
To use the ASC, you can check their calendar to see which lawyers are available. All lawyers spend at least 50% of their practice in family law and have at least 5 years experience. You will also be required to complete a form that confirms your identity, sign a consent, pay the fee, and sign a retainer agreement that explains the service you are getting. You will be charged extra for any time over 1 hour.
JusticeNet is a not-for-profit organization that can help people find legal services when their income is too high for legal aid and too low to afford legal fees. Their website has a list of lawyers, paralegals, and mediators who charge reduced fees based on your income and the size of your family. You must register and pay a small fee to use their services.