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How can I keep my abusive partner away from me after I leave?
As of March 1, 2021, the term custody has changed to decision-making responsibility. And in most situations, the term access has changed to parenting time. Now, all parents usually have parenting time.
Also, a person who isn't a parent or step-parent may get a contact order to spend time with a child. For example a grandparent can get this order.
Staying safe after you leave an abusive relationship is important.
You might be able to talk to your partner to make an agreement about when, where, and how they may contact you or your children. But if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable, you don't have to talk to your partner directly. You can have a lawyer or someone else talk to your partner for you. This could be a friend, family member, or religious advisor.
You might need to make changes to your life to limit your partner's contact with you. For example, you can:
- change your telephone number and email address
- change your routines, like the time you leave for work or when you usually get groceries
You can also make a safety plan to help keep you and your children safe.
Get help from the police or the court
If these changes do not keep your partner away from you, you might be able to:
- talk to the police about bringing criminal charges against your partner
- get a restraining order from the family court
- get a peace bond from the criminal court
Each of these options protects you in different ways. The one that is best for you depends on your situation. There's more information on them in the Next Steps.
It is also a good idea to keep detailed records about your partner's abusive behavior. This should include notes about:
- what exactly happened
- when it happened
- if and how you were hurt
- who was there
- what your partner said
Keep your notes in a safe place. You can use them to refresh your memory if you are interviewed by the police, talk to a lawyer, or testify in court later. These notes will help you give detailed information.
You should also keep things like:
- threatening notes, emails, or voicemails
- photographs of injuries or property damage
Get legal advice
You can talk to a lawyer who can give you some legal information and advice on what you should do.
If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for everything, some lawyers provide "unbundled services" or "limited scope retainer" services.
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.
If you want to get a restraining order only and there are no other family issues, you might be able to get up to 6 hours of free legal help. If you want a restraining order and other family law orders, you have to apply for a regular legal aid certificate. You can call Legal Aid Ontario at 1-800-668-8258 to find out more.