Family Law in Canada

1. Do women have equal rights with men in Canada?
Many years ago, there was a deficit of women in Canada because the first Canadians were mostly men. For a long time, women in Canada, as in England, had no right to vote, could not get professional education or work in the same occupations as men. Gradually the situation changed. In 1897, Clara Brett Martin became the first Canadian lawyer and in 1903, Emily Stowe became the first woman doctor in Canada.
Today, according to statistics, in Canada, there are virtually the same numbers of men as there are women. Women have equal rights with men in all spheres of activity, as confirmed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Now, women have become leaders in many areas of Canadian society; they are represented in public life, the economy and business; legally, they have complete independence and do not depend on men. Women are taught in schools, colleges and universities; work as managers and lawyers, police officers, and bus drivers; and participate in political life. The majority of Canadian men perceive women as equals. However, the wages of women are still less than men employed in the same occupation, and discrimination against women can still be seen in society as cultural attitudes have not completely caught up with legal changes.

2. What are the rights and obligations of married couples?
Married persons have rights and obligations provided by the Canadian Family Law Act. According to family law in Canada, the husband and wife have equal rights to jointly own the overall finances and real estate. The duties of the spouses include caring for each other, for their children and for their parents. Family law also provides the right of spouses and children to have protection from domestic violence. Each province and territory in Canada has its own family law. Details of family law in the province of Ontario can be found on the website Family law rules or in the book Ontario Family Law Act, which can be taken out from the library.

3. What is the Children’s Aid Society?
The Children's Aid Society (CAS) is an independent organization empowered by the government to perform child protection services. Anyone who believes that a child is in need of protection must call CAS. After receiving such a call, a child protection worker may come to your house. He or she will ask you and your child questions. If the CAS decides that you didn't protect your child from harm, they may remove your child. In such a case you have to get legal advice because you will need support to help you in court. You can find legal advice from the following website: ( Also you can get free help from The Toronto Mediation Centre (
If the court decides that your child must be removed from your home, you can ask for the child to be placed with a family member or friend, or the CAS will find an appropriate foster home.
Sources: Children's aid: Information for parents (Fact sheet)

4. Who can help me in case of family conflict?
To get help in the case of family conflict you can contact:
•The Family Law Information Centre.
•An alternative dispute resolution service.
•Family court.
Also, you can get help from the Ontario Association for Marriage & Family Therapy (, which represents qualified therapists who specialize in working with families, but their services are not free.

5. What is the Family Law Information Centre?
The Family Law Information Centre provides free information for newcomers who are new to the court system or who don’t have a lawyer. You will get pamphlets and other publications related to separation and divorce and child protection matters, including the brochure What You Should Know about Family Law in Ontario (available in 9 languages), the Ministry's Guide to Family Procedures, and information about legal services, the court process and court forms. Also, you can get advice from Legal Aid Ontario. The Information and Referral Coordinator will provide you with information on alternative dispute resolution options, issues related to separation and divorce and community resources and referrals to family mediation services connected with the court. Family Law Information Centres are available in most family courts.
Source: Family Law Information Centres

6. What is alternative dispute resolution?
There are four steps to using alternative dispute resolution:
1. Informal negotiation. Both sides of conflict can speak to each other and may come to a spoken agreement. The agreement has to be written down and signed by both of you. If the agreement is not in writing, it will be very hard to enforce.
2. Mediation. A mediator knows how to deal with conflicts and helps people talk to each other and come to an agreement.
3. Arbitration. In arbitration, you and your partner hire a third person to resolve your conflict.
4. Collaboration. Both sides of the conflict and their lawyers work together to resolve the issues. Collaboration is usually faster and cheaper than going to court. It is also more relaxed than court. It can only work if people respect each other and work together to solve their problems. Only people who can afford to hire a lawyer can use collaborative family law.

7. What is family mediation?
A mediator is a person who meets and talks with both sides in a conflict and helps them to resolve the conflict without going to a court. Usually this service is free. In the role of mediator can be a social worker, a psychologist or a lawyer. The mediator does not take sides or make decisions for the parties and he or she does not give legal advice. Negotiations can be opened when the mediator draws up a report which will be available for lawyers and/or the judge. If negotiations are closed, the mediator does not tell anyone about them. Before you make an agreement with a mediator, talk to a lawyer, because for some sorts of family conflicts, mediation may not be a good idea. If you are not satisfied with a mediator, you can stop negotiations at any time. You can find family mediation professional services at the site
Source: Family Mediation Services

8. What is family arbitration?
Both sides can agree to settle their dispute with an arbitrator. An arbitrator is a specialist who has the required training in family dispute resolution and is familiar with Canadian family law. Depending on the subject of the dispute the arbitrator must also have some specific expertise, for example, when it comes to financial disputes, he or she has to have a good understanding of financial matters. To find an arbitrator visit
He will investigate the matter of the dispute and make a judgement that is binding. Negotiations with the arbitrator cannot be stopped, but his decision can be appealed in court. Arbitrator services are paid.
Source: Family Arbitration Service

9. Do I need to hire a family lawyer?
Not every situation needs a lawyer, but for many family law problems, it is important to get legal advice. When deciding whether or not you need a family law lawyer, consider the following questions:
•How important is the issue? Are you prepared to risk losing your children or your home?
•Are you comfortable and is it safe to have direct contact with your partner?
•Does your partner have a lawyer?
•Do you want to go to Court?
•Do you have enough money to hire a lawyer or do you qualify for Legal Aid?
•Can someone other than a lawyer help you?
If you decided to hire a lawyer, go to the Certified Specialists in Family Law website®ion.
If you don't have enough money, go to What if I cannot afford a lawyer?
Source: Finding Help with your Family Law Problem

10. How does family court work?
If you decide that your conflict may be solved only by family court, your first step is to find the appropriate court. Ask for advice at the family law information centre, or if you have already hired a lawyer, he will show you an appropriate court and explain the procedure for passing the judicial process. The next step is filling in applications you will present to the court. If a claim is filed against you, you will also receive a form where you must answer some questions. You must also fill in a form regarding your income. In some cases you must also present your documents to the other side. After the submission of documents to the court, the judge will look over both parties' documents, discuss the conflict with both parties and their lawyers and come to decision.
Source: A Guide to Procedures in Family Court

11. Where can I find sources of additional information about family law in Canada?
There is Community Legal Education Ontario, which regularly publishes articles about family law. To find these articles go to Family Law Resources in Ontario
Need help right now?

12. Are there any Canadian sources in other languages?
Use website