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I can't afford a family law lawyer. Where can I find legal help?
If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, you can still talk to a lawyer for general advice. Some lawyers also provide "unbundled services" or "limited scope retainer" services. This means they agree to help you with part of your case. For example, preparing for a trial or case conference.
You may also be able to find legal help in other places. Some of these options include:
- Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). If your income is low enough, LAO pays for a lawyer to help with your case. LAO also offers other services such as a telephone information and referral service, free consultations with a lawyer if you have experienced domestic violence, and various in person centres and services.
- Community Legal Clinics (CLCs): Some CLCs across Ontario give free legal help or advice on family law issues to people who have low incomes.
- Justice Net: This is a not-for-profit that helps people in Ontario whose income is too high to get legal aid and too low to afford standard legal fees. They offer services for a fee based on income.
- Alternative Dispute Resolution: Some family law professionals use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes such as mediation and arbitration to help couples resolve their issues. A family law professional is a neutral person trained in helping people reach an agreement without going to court. Deciding which process is best for you depends on the facts of your situation and what you want.
For example, each family court location in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services. You can get up to 8 hours of mediation for a fee that is based on each person's income. You can use this service whether or not you have a court case. And if you have a court case, you can get up to 2 hours of mediation for free at the court.
You can also try calling the lawyer offices in your area and see if they offer a free consultation on family law matters.
Legal advice and legal information
A lawyer has special training that allows them to give legal advice. Legal advice means that a lawyer can explain what the law says and how it applies to your specific legal problem.
Even if you can't afford a lawyer, it is important to try to get legal information. Legal information is general information that can help you understand your legal rights, how the legal process works, and how to get more help.
If you've experienced partner abuse, there are additional legal supports that may be available to you.