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Do you know a woman who is being abused? A legal rights handbook

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General legal services

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)

Legal Aid Ontario gives low-income people access to a wide range of legal services. Some of these are designed specifically for people who have experienced domestic violence.

Toll-free: 1-800-668-8258

Toronto area (accepts collect calls): 416-979-1446

Toll-free TTY: 1-866-641-8867

Toronto area TTY: 416-598-8867

Website: www.legalaid.on.ca

Legal Aid certificates

You can apply for a Legal Aid certificate to pay for a lawyer. A certificate is a document that says LAO has agreed to pay for a certain number of hours of a lawyer's time to work on your legal issues. LAO will decide if you qualify based on your income and legal issue.

A different test is used for people who are experiencing domestic violence. You can have a higher income than other people and still qualify for a certificate. You can see the financial eligibility guidelines at www.legalaid.on.ca/en/getting/eligibility.asp.

Victims of domestic violence who have a family or immigration law issue might be able to get a Legal Aid certificate more quickly. If you call LAO and tell them that you are a victim of domestic violence, you will be placed in a priority line for help with your application. In urgent cases, you might be able to apply for a certificate in person at an LAO office. You might be able to get a certificate on the same day that you apply.

Victims of domestic violence can ask a women's shelter or community legal clinic to help them get 2 hours of free advice from an immigration or family lawyer. You have to apply for a Legal Aid certificate if you want the lawyer to represent you in any legal proceedings.

For people who qualify financially, LAO will cover up to 6 hours of independent legal advice if you are involved in family law mediation. If you are eligible, you can speak with a lawyer before, during, and after mediation.

LAO provides Legal Aid certificates for victims of domestic violence who have been charged criminally, who qualify financially, and who face serious consequences if they are found guilty. For example, if there is a chance you will get a jail sentence, lose custody of or access to your children, or face immigration or refugee challenges, you might be able to get a certificate.

Family Law Offices

There are 3 Family Law Offices in Ontario. Their family lawyers can represent people who qualify for legal aid. They are located in:

  • Kenora, at 807-468-7790 or toll-free at 1-888-295-4986
  • Ottawa, at 613-569-7448
  • Thunder Bay, at 807-346-2950 or toll-free at 1-800-393-8140

Family Law Service Centres

At Family Law Service Centres, if you are financially eligible, you can get a variety of legal resources and support, including:

  • help with documents
  • referrals to advice counsel
  • full representation in family law cases by a staff lawyer
  • referral to a private lawyer who will take a Legal Aid certificate
  • mediation and settlement conferences
  • referrals to other social service agencies

These centres are located in Brampton, Chatham, Halton, Newmarket, North York, Oshawa, Sarnia, St. Catherines, Toronto, Welland, and Windsor. It is important to use the centre in the region where your court case is located. To find a centre near you, call Legal Aid Ontario or go to www.legalaid.on.ca.

Family Law Information Centres

Family Law Information Centres (FLICs) are located in Ontario courts that deal with family law matters. They provide a variety of information and services that can:

  • help you understand the court process
  • give you court forms
  • explain how to get your own lawyer
  • answer your general questions
  • refer you to services and resources

Advice lawyers from Legal Aid Ontario are also available at FLICs, at certain times.

You can find a list of courthouses at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english, click on "Court Services" and then "Court addresses".

Community legal clinics

Community legal clinics provide summary advice, referral, and representation on many legal issues. Student Legal Aid Services Societies (SLASS) in law schools in Toronto, Kingston, London, Ottawa, Windsor, and Thunder Bay can also provide legal assistance.

To find the Legal Aid office, community legal clinic, or SLASS nearest you, call Legal Aid Ontario or see www.legalaid.on.ca.

Law Society Referral Service

The Law Society Referral Service is an online service that gives you the name of a lawyer in your area who will provide you with a free consultation for up to 30 minutes, to help you determine your rights and options. There is no charge for this referral service. You can ask for a lawyer who speaks your language, or a lawyer who will accept a Legal Aid certificate.

You must complete and submit an online form. You will then be given the name and contact information of a lawyer, as well as a referral number. Give the referral number when you call the lawyer. They will call you back within 3 days to make an appointment for your consultation. This might be in person or over the telephone.

If you are in crisis, such as being held in custody, or cannot use the online service, you can call the crisis line for a referral during normal business hours.

Toll-free crisis line: 1-855-947-5255

Toronto area crisis line: 416-947-5255

Website: www.findlegalhelp.ca