Educational Resources

Comprehensive Guide to Family Court Services

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

Navigating the family court system can be daunting, but understanding the wealth of services and resources available can make the process smoother and more manageable.  This guide outlines the key services and programs designed to support families through the complexities of family law proceedings.

1. Mandatory Information Program (MIP)

The MIP is a vital first step in most family law court cases, providing participants with essential information about the court process, dispute resolution alternatives, and the impacts of separation. Attendance is compulsory, with sessions available both virtually and in-person in some locations.

Stephanie Brooks, Associate Lawyer

It’s important to note that attending the MIP is a prerequisite for proceeding with your case, and proof of attendance must be filed with the court.

2. Family Law Information Centre (FLIC)

FLICs serve as a cornerstone of support, offering a range of services including court process information, mediation details, and community service referrals. Staffed by Information and Referral Coordinators (IRCs), FLICs are an invaluable resource for individuals navigating family law proceedings.

3. Legal Aid Ontario (LAO)

For individuals with low income, LAO provides access to advice lawyers and duty counsel who offer legal advice, assistance, and referrals to other Legal Aid services. These services are accessible at court or over the phone, ensuring that legal support is within reach for those who need it.

4. Court-Connected Mediation

Even after a case enters the court system, mediation remains a recommended avenue for dispute resolution. Judges may direct parties to explore mediation services, offering a platform to resolve issues amicably and access other valuable community resources.

5. Family Court Support Workers

For individuals experiencing family violence, family court support workers offer crucial assistance. From preparing for court proceedings to safety planning and court accompaniment, these workers provide a comprehensive support system for victims navigating the family court process.

6. Parenting Assessments

In high-conflict situations or cases requiring professional input on parenting, section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act allows for the appointment of assessors. These professionals evaluate the needs of the child and the parents’ ability to meet those needs, providing the court with critical information to inform decision-making.

7. The Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL)

The OCL plays a pivotal role in representing children’s interests in family disputes. Services range from legal representation to in-depth investigations and the provision of Voice of the Child Reports, ensuring that the children’s perspectives are adequately represented and considered in the proceedings.

8. Voice of the Child Reports

Voice of the Child Reports are instrumental in conveying children’s views and preferences regarding parenting matters. Prepared by professionals, these reports provide a child-focused perspective, contributing valuable insights to the family law process.

9. Interpreters and Accessibility Coordinators

Recognizing the diverse needs of participants, the court provides interpreters and accessibility coordinators to ensure that all parties can fully engage in the legal process. Whether it’s language interpretation or accommodations for disabilities, these services ensure an inclusive and accessible court experience.

The family court system offers a wide array of services aimed at supporting families through legal proceedings, promoting informed decision-making, and ensuring the best interests of all parties, especially children, are upheld. With the guidance of family lawyers and other professionals navigating these services becomes less intimidating, empowering individuals to approach family law matters with confidence and clarity. For detailed information and assistance, the resources provided by the Ministry of the Attorney General, Legal Aid Ontario, and the Office of the Children’s Lawyer are invaluable.

*this article was based, in part, on A Guide to Process for Family Cases at the Superior Court of Justice Ontario Superior Court of Justice (October 2023)

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.