Family legal issues
If you qualify for legal aid, we can help you to:
- Deal with Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) proceedings (child protection, adoption, and youth justice).
- Figure out or change decision-making responsibility (formerly custody), support, or parenting time/contact (formerly access) with your former partner.
- Resolve a family matter outside of court through mediation or a negotiated settlement.
- Prepare court documents and represent you at court.
- Obtain a restraining order if you are experiencing domestic violence.
Check the table below to see if you qualify:
|Number of family members||The amount of money your family earns in a year||For domestic abuse|
Note: In extremely urgent or high-risk situations for people experiencing domestic abuse or dealing with a child protection case, LAO may provide certificates to people who have incomes above the limits shown in the table above.
Not sure whether you qualify for legal aid? Call us.
- Toll free: 1-800-668-8258
- Toronto local: 416-979-1446
- TTY: 711
Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) proceedings
The CYFSA exists to promote the best interests of children in Ontario. It controls a number of programs and services for children and youth, including Children’s Aid Societies, Indigenous Child and Family Well-Being agencies, and adoption.
These agencies exist to protect infants, children and youth who are experiencing or at risk of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse, neglect or abandonment.
If Children’s Aid has contacted you, it is important that you get legal advice right away.
Depending on the situation, there may be options to deal with the problems identified by Children’s Aid without going to court.
If you qualify for legal aid, we may issue you a certificate to pay a family lawyer to give you legal advice and represent you. A non-litigation certificate, a type of voucher, may be issued if you want to try to resolve your child protection matter out of court. If an out-of-court agreement is not possible, you can apply for a litigation certificate to pay a lawyer to provide legal advice and represent you at court.
A legal aid lawyer can also help you access an Indigenous dispute resolution process or mediation services. Even if you don’t qualify for legal aid, we can refer you to free or subsidized mediation services.
Do not sign anything before speaking to a lawyer. Children’s Aid can remove your child from your home if you sign an agreement but do not follow the conditions.
Learn more about child protection matters.
Settling problems outside of court
You do not have to go to court to decide every legal issue. Mediation can help you and your ex make decisions together about decision-making responsibility (custody), support, or parenting time (formerly access) outside of court.
If you qualify for legal aid, you can access free mediation services in Milton, Ottawa, Brampton, Peel and Newmarket. If you do not qualify, we can refer you to other mediators who are either free or charge you depending on what you are able to pay.
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Mediation: Is mediation right for you? (infographic)
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Mediation versus family court (infographic)
If you do not qualify for a lawyer we may still be able to help
You can get help from the Family Law Information Centre at your courthouse if you qualify. The legal aid lawyer (called an advice lawyers) can give you up to 20 minutes of free general legal advice. The advice lawyer may also be able to give you a referral to one of LAO’s Family Law Service Centres. If there is no advice lawyer available, you will find various brochures and factsheets to help you.
Family law information program
As of January 1, 2021, the online version of Mandatory Information Program is no longer available on LAO’s website.
Did a judge tell you to take a course about family law because you are separating or getting a divorce?
Contact your local family mediation and information services centre for more information about participating in a Mandatory Information Program.