Layperson Guides to procedure in the Ontario Court of Justice - Family Court
The following information is a short summary of the more detailed adobe acrobat .pdf documents. They explain in general layperson terms, the procedure in the Ontario Court of Justice - Family Court. It is not legal advice and you cannot rely upon it as such. You should always consult with a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you should make application to legal aid and/or seek legal advice from duty counsel at your local Family Court.
NOTE: Pdf 01. Ontario Family Court Self-Help Consolidated Guide Consolidated below has all of the pdf's together in one document. EXCEPT for 09b. Motions To Change a Court Order, which needs to be downloaded separately to have a complete set of the pdf guides on this page.
Most Ontario Court of Justice - Family Court proceedings begin with an APPLICATION, where a party (meaning either a man/father or a woman/mother) initiates Family Court proceedings. The person initiating the Court proceeding is known as the APPLICANT.
The APPLICATION contains CLAIMS by the APPLICANT. These CLAIMS are what the APPLICANT wants the Family Court to order you to do.
Generally, once you have been SERVED (given the Court Documents) you have 30 DAYS under the FAMILY LAW RULES to formally RESPOND (subject to some exceptions) in what is known as an ANSWER.
The party who must ANSWER is known as the RESPONDENT.
The RESPONDENT'S provides an ANSWER to the APPLICATION either agreeing to the orders requested by the APPLICANT, or disputing them.
The RESPONDENT then may also make CLAIMS of their own, which the APPLICANT must answer in a REPLY.
If the APPLICATION contains a claim for either CHILD or SPOUSAL SUPPORT, then the ANSWER must have an accompanying FINANCIAL STATEMENT served with the APPLICATION.
An APPLICATION with a child support claim does not have to be accompanied by a FINANCIAL STATEMENT if the only claim is the table amount under the CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES. if there is a claim for EXTRAORDINARY EXPENSES or you make a STANDARD OF LIVING TEST CLAIM, then the other party must serve you a FINANCIAL STATEMENT.
Also, if there is CLAIM for SPOUSAL SUPPORT, you must be served a FINANCIAL STATEMENT.
If there is a claim for custody and/or access, you must also serve and file a form 35.1 - AFFIDAVIT FOR CUSTODY & ACCESS.
NOTE: Property cannot be claimed in the Ontario Court of Justice. Property matters can only be heard in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The party that served you, likely your wife or common-law partner then must prove to the Family Court that she has in fact SERVED you.
This PROOF of SERVICE is known as an AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE.
The AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE is a document that tells the Court that you swear that you served the documents upon the other party. It is sworn written testimony. It is sworn either by the Clerk of the Court, a lawyer, or other commissioner of oaths, authorized by the Attorney General of Ontario to notarize Family Court documents.
Every document SERVED by a party on the other party, must have an accompanying AFFIDAVIT OF SERVICE proving that the other party was in fact (served) given a copy of the documents. There are specific rules related to serving court documents under the Family Law Rules which you must review in order to for service to be effective and accepted by the Court. Please review Rule 6 - Service of the Family Law Rules for details and the Government self-help guides for family Court for examples.
After the APPLICATION, ANSWER and REPLY have been SERVED, the parties have their FIRST COURT DATE to verify that in fact all documents have been served upon the parties and that these documents have been filed with the Court.
The First Appearance Clerk verifies this at the FIRST COURT DATE, and either schedules timelines to finish service of documents, and schedules the first CASE CONFERENCE DATE.
A CASE CONFERENCE BRIEF must be then be prepared and exchanged per the timelines in the FAMILY LAW RULES (APPLICANT within seven days and RESPONDENT within four days of the CASE CONFERNCE, per the FAMILY LAW RULES).
By 2 PM, two days before the CASE CONFERENCE, the parties must confirm the date with each other and file a CONFIRMATION with the Family Court. Family Court most often have a special fax number for transmitting the CONFIRMATION FORM.
At the CASE CONFERENCE, the Judge will attempt to facilitate a settlement discussion, and have the parties go outside of the Court to see if they can come up with an agreement to either settle all, or part of the COURT CASE.
Any agreement to settle is done in writing. This is known as either TEMPORARY or FINAL MINUTES OF SETTLEMENT, depending on whether part (temporary) or the entire (final) matter is settled.
The MINUTES OF SETTLEMENT then become a JUDGE'S ENDORSEMENT. An endorsement is what the Judge writes down as his/her ORDER.
The JUDGE'S ENDORSEMENT, is then written up into a DRAFT COURT ORDER. If the parties have lawyers, this is done by one of the lawyers. The other lawyer, then must approve the DRAFT COURT ORDER as to it's form (the way its drafted - who was there, indicating whether this is a temporary or final order) and content (what it the Court Order actually says, who will do what, when they will do it, etc.).
Once approved by the other lawyer, the DRAFT COURT ORDER then goes back to the Family Court, where it is compared either by the Judge, or a Clerk of the Court against the ENDORSEMENT.
If the DRAFT COURT ORDER and ENDORSEMENT match, and the form is technically correct, the ORDER is APPROVED and then is ISSUED under a COURT SEAL.
The COURT ORDER is now ENFORCEABLE, within the limits proscribed by law.
Sometimes it becomes necessary to change / modify a Court order after you've followed the above process. Once a final order issues, you must wait six month before seeking a change to a final Court order. You can only do so earlier with a Judge's permission, and you must have an exceptionally good reason. There must be a material change of circumstances to change any final Court order. You should refer to the specific self-help guide number 09b. Motions To Change a Court Order for details.
NOTE - CUSTODY & ACCESS CLAIMS: If there is a claim for custody and/or access, you must also serve and file a form 35.1 - AFFIDAVIT FOR CUSTODY & ACCESS. Please see Guide 03b. AFFIDAVIT FOR CUSTODY & ACCESS - Form 35.1 below for details.
NOTE - PROPERTY CLAIMS : Property cannot be claimed in the Ontario Court of Justice. Property matters can only be heard in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
The pdf documents BELOW provide a layperson-explanation of the Family Court process in much greater detail.