Area of Law: Family Law
Answer Number: 128
Child and spousal abuse: Getting helpRegion: Ontario Answer Number: 128
Child abuse, whether it is physical or emotional, is taken very seriously in our society. So much so that when abuse is even just suspected for a child under 16 years old (or 17 and below if living under a child protection order), members of the public in Ontario are legally obliged to report it to authorities.
If your spouse is abusing you or your children, there are several things you can do. These include seeking shelter, having criminal charges laid, getting a peace bond, getting a family law restraining order or getting an order for exclusive possession of the family home. No one should have to remain in a dangerous or abusive situation. The law and community support make it possible to improve your situation.
If you suspect abuse is happening to a child, or you yourself are in danger, there are a number of options you have for immediate help. They include:
- call 9-1-1 (if available in your area), or your local police emergency number
- contact a local crisis or help line, such as the Ontario Victim Support Line, or the Assaulted Women’s Helpline
- visit ShelterSafe.ca to find the nearest shelter for women and their children seeking safety from violence and abuse
- visit the Ontario Network of Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Treatment Centres for a listing of hospital-based centres that provide 24/7 emergency care to women, children and men who have been sexually assaulted or who are victims or survivors of domestic violence
- Ontario Victim Services can help provide services such as food, clothing and shelter
- the Children’s Aid Society can provide help and information if child abuse is suspected or taking place
- contact your family doctor
- visit YWCA Canada for a list of YWCA associations that offer shelter, housing and support services
- contact a lawyer, or a legal aid office to obtain legal help and legal services for people who cannot afford a lawyer
- contact the Ontario Women’s Directorate or the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses for services and a list of shelters in your area that can give temporary help and somewhere safe to stay
- speak with someone you trust, such as family, friends or neighbours
- visit Canada’s Department of Justice for links to websites and services dedicated to family violence
- the Kids Help Phone can connect kids, teens and young adults, from any community in Canada, to a professional counsellor 24 hours a day, 365 day a year. Call 1-800-668-6868, or go online at KidsHelpPhone.ca
- many community organizations provide social services
- Immigration and Citizenship provides a listing of services in Ontario for newcomers to Canada
Having criminal charges laid
Whether you have left for a shelter or remain in your house, you can call the police. Many police forces in Ontario have a policy that they must lay charges for domestic assault situations. However, there are still some police forces that will not automatically lay charges. They will want to see some evidence of physical abuse before they lay a charge.
If the police are not willing to lay a criminal charge against your spouse you can take steps to have a criminal charge laid yourself. To do this, you have to meet with a justice of the peace and lay what is called an “information.” The information is a document that sets out what happened. If the justice of the peace thinks there is a good reason to believe you were assaulted, your spouse will have to face criminal charges. You can arrange to meet with a justice of the peace at most court offices.
If you do not want to lay a criminal charge against your spouse, you may want to get a peace bond. This is a court order that requires your spouse to be on good behaviour and keep the peace. To get a peace bond you will have to meet with a justice of the peace and explain what happened. You must show that you have reasonable grounds to be afraid that your spouse or partner will injure you, your children or your property. If the rules of the peace bond are broken, your spouse may be sent to jail.
When issuing a peace bond, the justice can also attach a number of conditions, such as ordering your spouse or partner to stay away from you. The only way for a peace bond to help you is if you follow up on it, and actually call the police if your spouse or partner breaks any of the conditions. If your spouse refuses to sign a peace bond, or if they violate a condition of the peace bond, they could be fined or sent to prison. Because a peace bond usually expires after one year, you must reapply if you feel it is still needed.
Another option is to get a family law restraining order. This has generally the same effect as a peace bond. The advantage of a restraining order is that you can get one quickly from your local family court and without your spouse knowing. Once the court has granted you a restraining order, you should give a copy to your local police department.
Exclusive possession of the family home
If you or your children are being abused and you want to get your spouse out of the family home, you can go to court and ask the judge for what is called “exclusive possession of the matrimonial home” together with the contents of the home. This is a court order that requires your spouse to live somewhere else. It gives you the right to live in the family home without your spouse even if your spouse is the legal owner of the home. The court may also order your spouse to pay you money for the upkeep of the house.
For more information on how to protect yourself from an abusive spouse, contact a women’s shelter, a domestic hotline, or a family law lawyer.
More information about violence in the home and victim services is also available from the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
For legal advice and assistance with domestic dispute issues and other family law matters, contact our preferred Family Law Firms and see who’s right for you.
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