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We asked Evan Clemence, family law lawyer at Gelman & Associates, some commonly asked questions about family law proceedings in Ontario. Please be advised that these answers are not intended as legal advice, but rather as an introductory overview on a legal subject. For legal advice regarding family law proceedings in Ontario, we recommend consulting with an Ontario family lawyer. Contact us today to schedule a consultation about your particular case.
Domestic Violence and Family Law in Ontario
The presence of domestic violence has a profound impact on the outcome of parenting decisions in family law proceedings. A person who has committed physical violence against their spouse or child often has their parenting rights restricted. However, domestic violence generally does not affect the division of assets, nor legally-mandated support payments.
A perpetrator of physical violence may face consequences in the division of property: the matrimonial home, in particular, may be restricted to them. If a person is deemed to be a potential danger to the safety of others, the Court may legally order them to stay away from the property. An Ontario family lawyer may be able to help either party navigate communications, striving for equitable solutions.
Defining Domestic Violence
Domestic violence can involve physical abuse as well as coercive control, psychological, emotional, verbal, and financial abuse. Each relationship is different, but abusive relationships often involve a power imbalance that is built to silence the survivor of the abuse. Because of this, it can be challenging for a survivor of domestic violence to articulate their circumstances. Working with an Ontario family lawyer may be essential to preparing an informed claim. At Gelman & Associates, it is our priority to provide compassionate service, seeking justice for our clients.
The first and most important step in the immediate aftermath of a domestic violence incident is to secure safety for those targeted by the violence. In collaboration with law enforcement, our Ontario family lawyers may be able to assist you in securing a restraining order, a temporary custody order, emergency child support, and more.
While uncommon, false allegations of domestic abuse do occur, and can bear life-altering consequences. If you believe you have been falsely accused of domestic violence, book a consultation with our Ontario family lawyers to discuss your options.
Types of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence comes in various forms, and can involve physical as well as psychological damage. Physical violence involves causing harm to another person’s body, while psychological damage can involve belittling, mocking, controlling, terrorizing, or otherwise diminishing another person’s quality of life. It may involve coercive control as well as financial abuse. There can be a single damaging instance of domestic violence, or it may occur in smaller increments over the course of a long time.
A person deemed to be abusive, whether psychologically or physically, often faces reduced parenting rights. They may also lose access to the matrimonial home, where criminal charges are involved.
It can be complicated to articulate a claim related to non-physical forms of violence. However, our Ontario family lawyers may be able to help you prepare such a claim with care, and receive the justice and possible compensatory damages to which you are entitled.
Impact of Domestic Violence on Parenting Plans and Decision-Making Responsibilities in Ontario
Domestic violence significantly affects parenting plans and decision-making responsibilities. A parenting plan overviews how children are to be raised following their parents’ separation, and includes guidance as to how much time the child will spend with each parent. Decision-making responsibility refers to parents’ duties to decide on important issues concerning the child, including schooling and medical needs.
While joint decision-making responsibility is often the goal for separating couples, it is typically inappropriate when one of the parents is abusive. There may be exceptions, with the agreement of both parties, and strict safeguards to ensure responsible, collaborative co-parenting.
A survivor of domestic abuse may receive sole decision-making responsibility, as well as sole access to the matrimonial home. In some cases, where there may be difficulty proving the nature and severity of the domestic violence, alternative arrangements may be made.
Designing a parenting plan that addresses decision-making responsibility must consider all forms of abuse. Even when one of the parents has sole decision-making responsibility, communication parameters and safeguards can be crucial to protect the survivor from ongoing abuse.
Court Orders for Protection Against Domestic Violence in Ontario
In family law proceedings, there are several orders that can assist victims of domestic violence. A restraining order prohibits your current or former spouse from contacting you or being physically near you. It can serve as a safety net once criminal charges expire.
Another option is an order for temporary exclusive possession of a matrimonial home, regardless of title ownership. Strong evidence is required to prove that the survivor and/or children would be endangered should they continue to live with the perpetrator of domestic violence. Remember that such an order is temporary, and only addresses housing until there is a final decision regarding the division or equalization of net family property.
How a Family Lawyer Can Assist in Domestic Violence Cases
In domestic violence cases, a family lawyer may be able to provide support and guidance to clients. At Gelman & Associates, we strive to negotiate satisfactory resolutions, which may involve the following:
- Understanding the client’s experience of domestic violence, including its psychological impact.
- Advising on pressing charges and when to involve the police.
- Where needed, assist in creating a safety plan and applying for legal aid.
- Recommending protective measures for the future, considering the well-being of the client and children.
- Developing a comprehensive parenting plan or seeking a Court Order, addressing communication boundaries and exchange protocols.
- Educating clients on the seriousness of the situation, including recognizing their own inappropriate behaviours.
- Encouraging the end of harmful relationships for the well-being of the children involved.
- Advising against filming or recording confrontations, as this can exacerbate the problem.
Contact Gelman & Associates for a Consultation on Family Law Proceedings in Ontario
If you would like to learn more, or discuss the specifics of your case involving family law proceedings, contact us at Gelman & Associates and schedule a consultation today. We have offices across Ontario in order to provide our clients with better access to justice.
Disclaimer: For specific legal advice on your family law matter, please consult with a family law lawyer. The content in this article is not intended to act as legal advice and is instead intended to act as a general overview of a legal topic.