Family Relationships

1. I’m planning to get married. What do I need to know about marriage in Canada?
There are religious and civil marriages in Canada; however, under certain circumstances, Canadian law recognizes common-law marriage. The legal age of entry into civil marriage in Canada is 18 years, but in some cases, with the written consent of the parents, the age can be lowered to 16. A civil marriage can be registered by a judge or official of the municipality. For the marriage you must receive a marriage licence from your municipality. Religious marriage is registered by a religious authority, who must have special permission for marriage registration in Canada and the right to issue a marriage certificate. If a couple lives together for some time (from one to three years depending on the province) and has a common household, then they will be considered to be in a common-law marriage. In Canada, same-sex marriages are also allowed, which are subject to the same family law as heterosexual marriages. It is recommended that you plan your wedding in advance, as you will have to calculate future expenses and choose the best option with that in mind.

2. I’m thinking about having a child. What do I need to know about childbirth in Canada?
In case of pregnancy you should go to your family doctor, or just go to the nearest walk-in-clinic, where you will get an explanation of pregnancy procedures and receive the addresses of service providers. Once you give birth, your workplace will provide you with unpaid maternity leave and your position at your workplace, or a comparable one, will be saved for you for when you return to work. Payment during maternity leave is from social security funds provided by the government and equals 55% of normal earnings up to a maximum salary of $40,000. For payment, you must have a SIN card and can initiate the process by contacting the local office of Service Canada. Some workplaces provide maternity leave top-up payments, to allow those on maternity leave to receive monthly payments closer to their regular salary. If you are not planning to raise the baby, you can give birth and then give the baby up for adoption. Alternatively, you can get an abortion, which is a legal procedure in Canada.
You can have a baby in the maternity ward of the hospital or at home under the supervision of an obstetrician. In Ontario if you have an OHIP card services for pregnancy and childbirth are free. Abortions also are performed for free. The woman requesting the procedure is not obliged to explain why she wants to get an abortion. In the absence of OHIP card the cost of an abortion can be from 500 to 1,000 dollars.

3. How can I solve family conflict?
Today, according to statistics in Canada, there are a relatively equal number of men and women. Newcomers have to know that in Canada women have equal rights with men in all spheres of life, as confirmed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. According to family law in Canada, the husband and wife have equal rights to jointly own bank accounts and real estate. The duties of the spouses include caring for each other and caring for their children and parents. In the case of marital conflict, family partners can obtain legal advice at the site; click on the command Find a Lawyer or Paralegal. During the first 30-minute free consultation you will learn whether the lawyer is an expert in family matters, and whether he can help you. If you can not afford a lawyer, you can get these services for free. In Ontario, legal aid is provided by the agencies Legal Aid Ontario, Family Law Service Centre, Family Duty Counsel and others. You can also contact the Ontario Association for Marriage & Family Therapy (OAMFT). There you will find certified specialists with experience in settling family disputes, including family therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists. Their services are paid.

4. How can I get a divorce?
The grounds for divorce in Canada are living in separate residences for one year, adultery or abuse in the family. The husband or wife shall provide proof of the reasons for which they filed for divorce. If you do not yet have status in Canada, or have applied as a refugee, the divorce can stop your process; therefore urgently contact a lawyer before taking action. After the divorce, both spouses can divide the accumulated marital property equally: the house in which they lived and raised children, cars, household items, pensions, bank accounts and debts. Also, both parents, whether through an agreed upon arrangement or through a court order, are obliged to support their children. The parent not living with the child is required to pay the parent living with a child support up until the child turns 18 years old, or sometimes longer.
Also, in Canada, there is a law according to which the more affluent member of the family should help the other who is less financially secure. There are various ways to apply pressure to those who refuse to pay child support. There is the Family Responsibility Office, which collects child support from unscrupulous individuals.

5. How can I get help for domestic violence or abuse?
If you are being abused in your family, you can report it to the police. Under Canadian law, abuse includes such non-physical actions as harassment and intimidation, and physical actions such as beatings and rape. You should know that after you notify the police of the abuse, your abuser can be arrested and charged with a crime or crimes, and can be convicted even if you do not press charges. The court may also forbid the abusive family member from visiting the house where you live and from contacting you and the children. Cases of ill-treatment in the family can lead to unpredictable consequences, so it is better to consult with an attorney who specializes in family matters in advance. If you are concerned for your safety, be aware that there are many women’s shelters in Canada that provide accommodation, protection and services to women who are being abused by their partners. A list of such organizations can be found at

6. What benefits can I get if I am a senior?
The elderly in Canada are called seniors. Canada takes the position that seniors are an important part of society, and their knowledge, experience and contribution to Canada deserve deep gratitude. The right to life with dignity, protection from discrimination and ill-treatment is guaranteed to all seniors in Canada. If you are a senior and you need protection, help and support, contact your nearest Community Care Access Centre; to get legal assistance in Toronto contact the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly. Newcomers who reach 65 years of age, but have not lived in Canada for 10 years, can receive disability benefits. In Ontario it is called the Ontario Disability Support Program. If you are an immigrant who is 65 years old or over, and you have lived in Canada for 10 years or more, you will be able to receive an Old Age Security Pension even if you have never worked in Canada. In addition to financial assistance, seniors living in their homes can receive a lot of services to facilitate and improve their lives, and those who live in retirement homes for seniors are provided with round the clock medical assistance.

7. What benefits can I get if I am disabled?
In Canada, the word ‘disability’ can mean different types of physical, psychological or mental illnesses: a lack or loss of motor function, vision, hearing and mental and developmental disorders. In Toronto there are a lot of associations for the disabled designed to help them lead a normal life. Some examples of these organizations are, The Canadian Hearing Society (271 Spadina Road, phone 416-928-2500,, The Canadian Mental Health Association (700 Lawrence Ave W., Suite 480, phone 416-789-7957, ext. 231, and The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (1929 Bayview Avenue, phone 416-480-2500, There are a number of financial assistance programs for disabled persons, which can be found at the website, under "What financial assistance can I get if I have a disability?”
For people with disabilities who want to study or work, there are also a number of programs, such as the Grant for Students with Permanent Disabilities and the Opportunities Fund for People with Disabilities. Information about these programs can be found at the Service Canada website under "People with Disabilities.” Located in Toronto, the ARCH Disability Law Centre (425 Bloor Street East, Suite 110, phone 416-482-8255) provides free legal assistance to low-income persons with disabilities. This centre can handle the residents of Toronto and other cities of Ontario. If you want to communicate with the organization in your native language, you will be given a free interpreter.

8. Where can I find additional information about family relationships in Canada?
We recommend the following source about family relationships in Canada:
Giving Birth in a New Land. A Guide for Women New to Canada and Their Families

9. Are there any Canadian sources in other languages?
Yes, visit Family law education for women
Find your Community Care Access Centre
A Guide to Programs and Services for Seniors in Ontario