An Introduction to Family Law in Ontario
What if I cannot afford a lawyer?
You may be able to get help from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). LAO helps low income people get legal assistance through a range of services. Your income must be low enough to get most of these services. Call LAO to find out if you are eligible.
Visit www.legalaid.on.ca or call them at:
Bell Relay Service: 1-800-855-0511
Toronto area (accepts collect calls): 416-979-1446
Some of the services LAO offers are:
Family Law Service Centres
At Family Law Service Centres you can get help with court documents, and get referrals to other types of services. These centres are located in several places in Ontario.
Family Law Offices
There are Family Law Offices in Kenora, Ottawa, and Thunder Bay that can help with issues like custody, access, support, child protection, and restraining orders.
Family duty counsel
Family duty counsel may be able to give you advice about family law issues and basic court process, help negotiate a settlement, and help you in court. But they cannot represent you at trial. Most courts in Ontario have these services.
General legal advice
You may be able to get free advice about your family law issue from a lawyer for up to 20 minutes. This service is only given over the phone.
You can apply to LAO for a certificate to cover the cost of a lawyer to represent you for a certain number of hours.
You may be able to get a certificate if your situation involves family violence, child protection, or complex family law issues.
Faster certificates for victims of family violence
If you are a victim of family violence and let LAO know this when you call them, you are placed in a priority line for help with applying for a certificate. In urgent cases, you may be able to apply in person and get a certificate, possibly on the same day you apply.
Law school clinics
Each law school in Ontario has a legal aid clinic staffed by law students who are supervised by lawyers. These clinics are located in Kingston, London, Ottawa, Thunder Bay, Toronto, and Windsor.
Law school clinics can help with child custody, access, and child support issues. Some of them can also help with other family law issues such as property division and spousal support.