Legal Aid Ontario (“legal aid”) receives funding from the provincial government to provide legal services to people with low incomes. Legal aid has two main components:
- The community legal clinic system; and
- The legal aid certificate program.
Community legal clinics are staffed by lawyers, community legal workers and sometimes law students. Legal clinics provide representation and advice on various kinds of legal issues. To receive services from a clinic, you must live in the area it serves. Most clinics also provide brief advice, or “summary advice”, without asking about your financial situation.
If you want a private lawyer but cannot afford one, you may be able to get a legal aid certificate from legal aid. Most certificates pay your lawyer’s fees and expenses, but some pay only expenses. You can get a certificate for some type of legal problems, but not all.
In family law, legal aid covers the following areas:
- To obtain custody of your children or change custody
- To get access for you to see your children or to make a major change to access arrangements that have already been made
- To assist you if your partner denies you access to your children
- To obtain child support or increase or decrease support
- To obtain spousal support or increase or decrease spousal support
- To stop your partner from selling or destroying your property
- To negotiate ownership of things like RRSPs or pensions that could provide you with some income
- To assist you get a restraining order against your partner
- To assist you get exclusive possession of the matrimonial home.
You can get legal aid to pay for a lawyer if:
- You have little or no money left after you pay for basic necessities; and
- Your legal problem is one that legal aid covers.
When you go to a legal aid office to apply for legal aid certificate you should take as much information as possible including:
- Court papers, if you have been served with any
- Identification documents
- Proof of your current income i.e. 3-4 recent pay stubs, income tax return or notice of assessment for previous year; welfare statement of income or employment insurance statements
- Up-to-date bank books
- Proof of monthly expenses and bills (rent receipt or mortgage payment, hydro, gas, car payments receipts, credit card statements, car insurance bill)
- Deed for your house
- Proof of any unusual expenses such as medical costs.
If legal aid decides that you have enough money to pay a lawyer yourself, you will not be given a certificate. If you get a certificate, you may be required to sign a payment agreement. This means that you agree to pay legal aid back for some or all of your legal fees and expenses.
Take your legal aid certificate to a lawyer who accepts certificates.
If you get a certificate for a family law matter and cannot find a lawyer who will take your case, you might be able to get legal help from the Family Law Office of Legal Aid Ontario at 393 University Avenue, Suite 420. Call (416) 348-0001 for an appointment.
Locations of Legal Aid offices in Toronto and area
|Toronto||375 University Ave.||(416) 598-0200|
|Scarborough||1921 Eglinton Ave. E.||(416) 750-7172|
|North York||45 Sheppard Ave. E.||(416) 730-1588|
|Etobicoke||5415 Dundas St. W.||(416) 237-1216|
|Brampton||205 County Court Blvd.||(905) 453-1723|