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Programs and services across Ontario - Going to family court
Programs and services across Ontario - Going to family court
LAO has services for people with low incomes who have family law problems. This includes:
- family duty counsel who can give you free legal advice if you don’t have a lawyer on the day of your hearing
- a free telephone line that lets you talk to a lawyer for up to 20 minutes to get information and general advice
- a legal aid certificate program if you have a low income and if your legal issue is one that LAO covers
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
During the COVID-19 situation, duty counsel services are being provided by phone. Call LAO's summary advice line at 1-800-668-8258 for more information.
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
During the COVID-19 situation, family mediation services are being provided remotely.
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.
During the COVID-19 situation, Information and Referral Coordinators (IRCs) are available remotely at certain times. Contact the family law office at your local courthouse for more information.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women provides Muslim women in Ontario 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.
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) 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.
The Family Justice Centre gives summary legal advice and help filling out court forms to people with low-income and who don’t have a lawyer. Services are provided by law students who are supervised by family law lawyers. Services are currently being provided by video conference.
Check the website for dates and times when you can call to speak with a student. The student will ask you questions about your income and legal problem to see if you qualify for services. If you qualify, a meeting will be scheduled with a lawyer and student.
JusticeNet helps people find a legal professional if their income is too high to get legal aid but too low to afford legal fees. If your net family income is less than $59,000, they refer you to an online directory of lawyers, paralegals, and mediators who provide help at reduced rates.
JusticeNet is a non-profit organization. You must register and pay a $25 fee to use their website. They may return the fee if you don’t find a professional to work with.