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How does family court work?

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In Ontario, the Family Courts are set up as a dedicated system aimed at resolving family law disputes quickly and effectively. These include issues that arise in connection with divorce, spousal and child support, child custody, and the division of assets after a former couple separates.

This specialized Court system is presided over by judges with expertise in this area, and is governed by a specific set of Family Law Rules that dictate the steps and procedures that must be followed. For example, there are detailed rules around the timing of various parts of the litigation, the notices that must be given, and mandatory participation in settlement opportunities.

If you start a case in Family Court, then you are the “applicant” (not the plaintiff) and your former partner is the “respondent” (not the defendant). The Family Court judge will make his or her ruling based on the evidence and documentation that you and your former partner have both filed.

The Family Court system is complex. Although it may be tempting to go through the process on a self-represented basis without a lawyer, it is always wise to at least get some preliminary advice from an experienced family law expert who can help you get started.

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