Are you worried that your partner or your ex will hurt you or your children?
You can get a restraining order from a family court judge, which means that the person you’re getting it for won’t be able to:
- come within a certain distance of you and your children
- come within a certain distance of your home and work
- talk to or contact you or your children except through someone else
If this person doesn’t follow the restraining order, they can be arrested and charged.
It’s important to remember, though, that, while your partner or ex can be arrested for not following the restraining order, this does not necessarily mean they will stop coming to your home or your work or trying to contact you or your kids.
Always stay alert and plan for your safety at all times, regardless of whether you have a restraining order or not.
How can Legal Aid help?
If you need legal advice right away
We will pay a lawyer to give you two hours of free legal advice.
You do not have to qualify for legal aid.
You can ask about this service at a shelter, community agency or a legal clinic. They will then give you a referral voucher so that you can get two hours of free legal advice from a lawyer.
Only lawyers with experience in domestic abuse issues can provide this service. All lawyers who accept these vouchers must be trained to help clients who tell us they have experienced domestic abuse. Your shelter or legal clinic can help you find a trained lawyer. You can also use our “Find a Lawyer” tool on our website.
If you qualify for legal aid help on your day at court
There are lawyers at the courthouse called duty counsel. They can help you with:
- drafting and preparing documents for urgent or without notice matters or where you are unable to complete court documents because of mental or physical health or literacy issues
- first appearance at court
There are Family Law Information Centres in most of the courthouses. A lawyer who can give you advice is known as family advice counsel. They can:
- give you general information about how to choose a lawyer and how best to use the help of a lawyer
- give you up to 20 minutes of advice and information about the court process and on family matters
If you qualify for a lawyer to represent you in court
We may cover the cost of six hours with a lawyer to help you with your restraining order. Find out if you’re eligible for this service.
If you don’t qualify for legal aid
You can get free legal advice from any of the following services:
- Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic–schliferclinic.com
- Law Society Referral Service–find legalhelp.ca
- Ontario Legal Information Centre–centreinfojuridique.ca
- Assaulted Women’s Helpline–awhl.org
How do you get a restraining order?
Find out which family courthouse you have to go to in order to apply for the restraining order. This is usually either:
Decide if you need to apply for anything else (e.g. child custody or child support).
Decide if this is an urgent request. For example, are you worried that either you or your children might get hurt or your children might get taken by your partner or ex?
If this applies to you, you can file either an urgent motion without notice (your partner or ex won’t know you have filed this until they get a copy) or an urgent motion with notice (which means you want the restraining order first before you start a family court case for something like child custody).
Complete the forms that are applicable to you. (You can find these forms at the family courthouse or online). This usually includes:
- Form 8: Application (General)–this starts the case or reopens a case
- Form 35: Affidavit in Support of Claim for Custody or Access–this form is only if children are involved and you are claiming custody or access
- Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) Restraining Order Information Form–this form can be found at the family court counter. If the restraining order is granted, this is sent to the police
If you need your restraining order as soon as possible because you cannot wait to see a judge for the next steps in your case (it could be weeks), complete these forms, too:
- Form 14: Notice of Motion–this form tells the court what you’re asking for
- Form 14A: Affidavit (General)–this form tells the court why you’re afraid for your safety and your children’s safety
- Form 14C: Confirmation–not required for a motion without notice, which is when the other person will not know that you are asking the court for a restraining order and they will not be in court to tell their side of the story on the motion date.
Give all the documents to the court clerk when you are done and they will give you your court number and court date.
TIP: Remember that your partner or ex has to get a copy of these documents. While you have to put down an address on the documents, you do not have to put down the address of where you are staying if you are worried that your partner or ex will find you. You can put down another address as long as you can get mail from there. The only thing you cannot use is a post office box because you need to be served with court documents.
Make a copy of all the completed forms and include:
- a blank Form 10: Answer
- 35.1 Affidavit–if children are involved and you are claiming custody and access
- 14A affidavit–this form tells the court why you’re asking for certain court orders and why you cannot wait until a case conference to talk about these issues
Make sure you keep a copy of all these forms for yourself.
You will have to give a copy of all the documents in your case to the other person in your case so they know that a case has been started against them and have a chance to respond. This is called serving documents.
You can have someone over the age of 18 or a professional process server give a copy of these documents to the other party. You will need to get proof that the other party received the documents and file this at the court counter.
For more information, please read our section about serving documents.
NOTE: If you are in an emergency situation, you may not have to give the documents to the other party (aka “serving documents”) until after a court order is made.
If you are doing a motion with notice, then you have to file Form 14C: Confirmation to confirm with the court that you will be attending court on the date and time of the hearing. If you do not file the confirmation, the court date may no longer be available for you.
If you have filed a motion without notice and the judge grants you a temporary restraining order, you will only go back to court for the next step in your case and you will be provided with a date for that.
Be in court on your court date to explain your case. A judge will then decide to either grant you your restraining order or not. If the judge grants the order, the family court staff will prepare it for you and copy of the restraining order will be sent to the police. Make sure you get a copy before you leave the courthouse.
The person being restrained will either find out because they were in court to hear the judge’s decision or they will be served with the order.
TIP: If the restraining order affects your children, it’s a good idea to give a copy to their daycare or school.
What to do after you get a restraining order?
It’s always a good idea to plan ahead of time to make sure you and your children are safe. Take some time to think about some steps you can take if you worry there may be future violence.
Safety planning for the courthouse
If you have a family court case involving an abusive partner, it’s a good idea to have a plan to feel safe while you’re in the courthouse.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
At the courthouse
- Visit the courthouse ahead of time.
- Find out where the following are:
- the duty counsel office
- court security
- the washrooms
- the room you have to be in
Getting to and from court safely
- Look for safe parking spots.
- Have someone walk with you to your parking spot or the transit stop to the courthouse.
- Consider either using a taxi or getting a ride from a friend.
- Talk to court security to have your abuser held back until you have had time to leave.
During your court visit
- Let court security know about your situation and bring copies of any relevant court orders such as bail conditions, a restraining order, etc.
- Bring someone for support to stay with you all day.
- If available at the courthouse, check if a family court support worker can go with you to court proceedings.
- Find a safe place to sit in the waiting area e.g. some place that is easily visible and surrounded by other people.
- Bring your cell phone with you.
When you see your abuser
- Ask court security for help.
- Move away from where your abuser is sitting.
- Ask your abuser to move away from where you are sitting
- Go into the washroom.
- Ask your support person to intervene.
- Family Law Act–Section 46: the judge will consider this section when deciding whether to grant the restraining order.
- Children’s Law Reform Act–Section 35: the judge will consider this section if there are children involved and when they are deciding whether to grant the restraining order.
- Justice Department: Safety Planning
- Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children: Safety Planning
- Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services: Helping women flee domestic violence: who to call