Starting a family court case
For any family court case, there are Family Law Rules that have to be followed. In those rules, you can find out the exact steps of a case and what forms you will need to complete.
Tip: the family court forms match the family law rule number. For example, rule 8 is about starting a case and Form 8: Application (general) is the form you need to fill out.
Form 8: Application (general)
To start a new court case, you always have to fill out Form 8: Application (general) in addition to the form that your case is about. For example, if you have to go to court to start a case about child custody and access, you would fill out Form 8 and Form 35.1 Affidavit in Support of Claim for Custody or Access.
Where do I find these forms?
- Online: Ontario Court Forms–Family Law Rules Forms
- At court: Ask the court clerk at the family counter of the courthouse.
Tips for completing forms
- Use plain language
- Use short numbered paragraphs
- Use headings
- Write in chronological order
- Be relevant
- Be consistent
- Add extra pages where needed
- Use 12 point font; if you’re writing it out by hand, make sure you write clearly
- Identify the parties and their relationship to each other
- Make note of important dates
- Be clear about what you’re asking for e.g. child support, a divorce
A claim is what you are asking the court for. E.g. custody, access or child support.
When you are completing Form 8, check off every claim that you are asking for because it is hard to add claims later.
If you don’t see what you’re looking for in the list, fill out box 50.
An order is what you want the court to do. It’s very important to be specific.
For example, if you are asking for child custody, access or support, some of the things you should include are:
- All the kids’ full legal names and dates of birth
- The date when you want the custody, access or support to start
- The kind of custody you’re looking for e.g. sole or joint custody?
- The amount you’re asking for in support (visit the Government of Canada’s Child Support Guidelines to get a sense of what you should ask for)
Be as detailed as possible. For example, you should answer these questions:
- Who currently makes the decisions about health and education?
- Who does the child lived with mostly since the separation?
- What is the current access schedule?
- Are visits supervised?
- Has the other party ever paid child support since separation?
Step 1: Prepare your court application form
This will include completing Form 8 and any other form that is relevant to you. For example, if you are asking for either child custody or access, you will also complete Form 35.1 Affidavit in Support of Claim for Custody or Access.
Step 2: Get your application issued
Take at least three copies of all of your documents to the court clerks.
If you are going to the Ontario Court of Justice, go to the family counter.
If you are going to the Superior Court of Justice, take a number and go to the registrar’s office.
You will get:
- A file number for your continuing record, which contains every document in your case so that the judge can easily find everything when it’s needed
- Your first court date
Step 3: Serve your application
You must give a copy of all the documents that you have filed with the court and give them to the other party.
More information, including the rules you must follow when serving documents to the other party can be found on our serving family court documents page.
Step 4: Complete proof of service
Proof of service is known as an affidavit of service. It’s a document that shows that all the documents were successfully given to the other party.
The affidavit will list the time and date the documents were served, and also how it was served and who did the serving.
An affidavit of service is important. If the other party says they haven’t been notified, this affidavit proves that they were.
Complete Form 6B: Affidavit of Service sworn/affirmed.
Include any supporting documents. For example, if you mail a claim by registered mail, print off the delivery confirmation including the signature verifying the receipt from the Canada Post website. If you send it by courier, include the delivery confirmation with signature provided by the commercial courier company.
Step 5: File your court documents
Take all of your original documents to the family court clerk and put them into your continuing record, which is a record kept at the courthouse with all of the documents that you have filed and want the court to look at.
You will have to update your table of contents, , which is a list that includes every form and document that you have added to your court file.
If you’re unsure about anything, ask the clerk for help.
- CLEO: Steps in a family law case: before you start
- CLEO: You start a family court case
- Ministry of the Attorney General: Information before you start your family case, the right court and resources
- Ontario Support Court of Justice: A guide to process for family cases at the Superior Court of Justice
- Ministry of the Attorney General: Starting a family case
- Steps to Justice: How do I start a family law court case?