I have a family court date in the Ontario Court of Justice. What should I do?
As of November 30, 2020, the Ontario Court of Justice (OCJ) has started to hear Applications, Motions to Change, and (FRO) matters again. While some cases will be heard in-person, most will have a telephone or video hearing. It's best to contact your local court for more information.
Because of COVID-19, on March 16, 2020, some time limits in Ontario law stopped running as a result of an emergency government order. This order ended on September 14. This means that the time between March 16 and September 14 will not be counted when deciding if you or someone else is too late to start a case or to take some legal steps.
This order applied to all time limits to start a legal case, which are also known as limitation periods. And, if you had a case that's already started, the emergency order also applied to some procedural steps like filing documents or appealing a decision.
You can now check online to see the list of cases the court is dealing with today and tomorrow. These court lists include the case name, time, room number, and reason for the court appearance.
These lists are updated at least once daily at 8am. This means your case might not be on the list if, for example, your case is to be heard by affidavit evidence only, or was added to the list after 8am.
If you're having a videoconference, you should get a list of Zoom coordinates for the different online courtrooms when your Application was . If you don't have this information, contact your local courthouse before your court date. You should receive an email with instructions on how to join the videoconference and the day and time of your hearing.
You can your documents:
- Online: Read the question How do I file court forms for my family law case online? for more information.
- By email to your local court: The list of email addresses for each court can be found at https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/courthouse-email-addresses/. If you can't email your documents, contact your local court to find out what your other options are.
- In person at your local court: If you can't file online or by email, contact your local court to find out what your other options are. Court counters are only open between 9 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
If you have an in-person hearing, make sure you get to court early as there are extra screening measures now. The government has developed a screening tool with questions that screen for COVID-19 symptoms. If you can't enter the courtroom, you will be given information about what to do next. If you can enter the courtroom, you will be required to wear a face covering.
And, in most cases, only the , their lawyers, and witnesses are allowed to enter the court for in-person hearings. Others, like family members and support persons, are allowed in only if “absolutely necessary”.
Legal Aid Ontario
You can get summary legal advice and services over the phone from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) at 1-800-668-8258 or, in Toronto, at 416-979-1446. Because of COVID-19, anyone can use this service to get legal advice and information at this time. It doesn't matter what your income is.
Emergency family law referral telephone line
You can call the Law Society of Ontario's temporary emergency family law referral telephone line if you have a family law issue and you:
- don't have a lawyer
- don't know if your issue is urgent or not
- don't know your next steps if your matter is urgent
If this is your situation, the referral service will help you get 30 minutes of free legal advice and information from a family law lawyer. Call 416-947-3310 or 1-800-268-7568.
Each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of for a fee that is based on each person's income and number of dependents. Fees start as low as $5 per hour. And if you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free.
Mediation services are currently being provided online. Contact service providers for an appointment or more information.