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Before making important decisions regarding family law, you should consult with a member of our legal team in order to understand your legal rights and obligations.

Starting an Ontario family law Case: The Application

A person starting an Ontario family law case files a document called an Application. The person in an Ontario family law case who is making the claim is, therefore, referred to as the Applicant.

An Application in an Ontario family law case may contain a claim against more than one person and more than one claim against the same person.

The Applicant  in an Ontario family law case seeks relief from the court by checking off one or more boxes under the applicable legislation. The form requires the Applicant to set out the grounds for his/her claim(s).

The Application in an Ontario family law case must be served on every other party by “special service” unless otherwise provided. Special service is carried out by:

  • 1. Leaving a copy with the opposing party, who is called the Respondent.
  • Note: If the person is or appears to be mentally incapable in respect of an issue in the case, then one can leave a copy with the person and with the guardian of the person’s property or, if none, with the Public Guardian and Trustee.
  • If the person is a child, then one can leave a copy with the child and with the child’s lawyer, if any.
  • If the person is a corporation, one can leave a copy with an officer, director or agent of the corporation, or with a person at any place of business of the corporation who appears to be managing the place.
  • If the person is a children’s aid society, one can leave a copy with an officer, director or employee of the society
  • 2. Leaving a copy with the Respondent’s lawyer of record or with a lawyer who accepts service in writing on the document;
  • 3. Mailing a copy to the Respondent and him/her send back a signed form entitled “Acknowledgment of service” or
  • 4. Leaving a copy at the Respondent’s residence with anyone who appears to be an adult and mailing another copy to the same address that day or the next day.

If the Respondent  in an Ontario family law case cannot be served by special service (because, for example, the Respondent is evading service or his/her address is unknown), the Applicant may apply for an order for substituted service. In such an Ontario family law case, the court orders that the documents may be served on a person other than the Respondent in the expectation that the person will bring the documents to the Respondent’s attention.

If all efforts to serve the Respondent by special service have been unsuccessful and there is no reasonable expectation that an order for subsituted service would bring the documents to the Respondent’s attention, an order that service is not required may be granted. This is generally referred to as “dispensing with service.”

Lastly, when the documents have been served on the Respondent in a way that was not authorized by the Family Law Rules but the court believes that the documents still came to the attention of the Respondent or would have come to his/her attention has he/she not evaded service, the court can make an order approving of the irregular service.