Area of Law: Family Law
Answer # 129
Restraining Orders and Peace BondsRegion: Ontario Answer # 129
There are several things you can do if your spouse is abusing you or your children. 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 agencies make it possible to quickly improve your situation.
A restraining order can only apply to partners and former partners, including same-sex partners, and only in family situations, where spouses or partners have separated. A restraining order is an order from a judge restraining one spouse from molesting, annoying or harassing or communicating with the applicant spouse, former spouse or children.
A restraining order can include many different types of conditions, such as:
- forbidding the spouse from being in contact with the applicant spouse and/or the children (except as permitted under the order),
- forbidding the spouse from attending at the applicant spouse’s place of work, the family home and the children’s school,
- requiring the spouse to surrender (give to the police) any weapons, and
- forbidding the spouse from possessing certain property.
Although restraining orders generally have the same effect as a peace bond, they do have the following advantages: They can be obtained:
- quickly from your local Family Court (or police service in some areas),
- without your spouse knowing, and
- they are still enforceable by the police.
However, the restraining order is only valid in Ontario, because it is issued under the Ontario Family Law Act.
Once the Court has granted you a restraining order, you should give a copy to your local police department. Once a restraining order has been issued, if it is breached, it can result in a fine, the police can charge the person breaching the order with a criminal offence and the person may be subject to imprisonment, or both.
How to obtain a Restraining Order
To obtain a restraining order, visit the Family Court in the municipality where you or the other person lives. You will be required to file certain documents, including an application. The application sets out all the issues you are asking the court to deal with. Normally, you will not see a judge for a few weeks, however, if the situation is an emergency, you can bring a motion to get a restraining order immediately.
Depending on which court you are in, you will be required to attend either a first court date, or a case conference, where you will be able to explain your case.
If the judge grants the restraining order, the court staff will prepare it for you. Keep a copy of it with you at all times.
More information on how to obtain a restraining order is available from the Ministry of the Attorney General.
A peace bond is a court order made by a judge or justice of the peace that requires a person to keep the peace, be of good behaviour and obey any other conditions ordered by the Criminal Court. A peace bond is sometimes called a “no contact order,” or “an 810” (referring to section 810 of the Criminal Code outlining procedures for peace bonds).
Peace bonds can be issued for up-to one year under the Canadian Criminal Code and for longer under the Court’s common law. In practice, however, most peace bonds are issued for one year. Because a peace bond is issued under the federal Criminal Code, it is valid in every province and territory.
Generally, a peace bond can arise in one of two ways. First, in minor criminal cases, the police may decide not to lay a criminal charge against the other person because there is not enough evidence, however they suggest that you should apply for a peace bond. Or, charges are laid but the Crown decides to withdraw the charges if a peace bond is signed.
Second, a peace bond can be issued where a person fears, on reasonable grounds, that another person will hurt him or her, damage his or her property or harm his or her spouse or child and has successfully applied to a justice of the peace to sign a peace bond based on this fear. An individual may also apply for a peace bond on behalf of certain others whose personal safety or property is threatened, such as a parent, grandparent, sibling, co-worker or friend.
Breaching a peace bond
Although a peace bond is obtained through Criminal Court, it is not a criminal charge, and a person agreeing to enter into a peace bond does not have a criminal record. However, if a peace bond is issued under the Criminal Code, a violation or breach of the bond or any of its conditions is a criminal offence. When a peace bond is issued, it will almost always result in records being kept by the local police and the RCMP. If a person is convicted of breaching a peace bond, they will have a criminal record, and could face possible jail time, a fine, or both.
How to obtain a peace bond
To obtain a peace bond, call or visit the local courthouse and ask for an appointment with a judge or justice of the peace to explain why you need a peace bond.
Bring any documents, including police reports and any evidence to support your claim to your appointment. This could include:
- Detailed notes, including dates and times that you felt threatening such as when the person:
- stalked or followed you,
- threatened or harassed you with phone calls, email messages, text message etc.
- damaged or threatened to damage your property (including photographs if possible)
- showed up at your children’s school or playground.
- Hospital and medical records if an assault has occurred (with photographs)
You will be asked to swear an information, which is an oath saying that what you have said is true. If the police or the judge or justice of the peace agrees that your personal safety, or that of your children is at risk, or that your property is at risk, he or she will summons the other party to appear in court. You will also be required to attend at court.
Conditions of the bond
If the judge believes, on reasonable grounds, that a peace bond order should be made, the terms of the order will then be decided and the other party will be asked to enter into the bond.
Examples of conditions the judge may add to the peace bond are similar to that of a restraining order, such as: ordering the person to have no contact with you and/or your family members or friends; stay away from your home, place of employment, children’s school, parent’s home etc.; and not possess any firearms or ammunition.
If the other party agrees, the peace bond will be ordered. However, if the other party does not agree to the peace bond, a hearing will be scheduled where the judge will listen to both sides, and make a decision whether to order the peace bond. If the other party still refuses to sign the bond, they may be sentenced up-to 12 months in jail. For more information on peace bonds, visit the federal Department of Justice website. For more information about having a peace bond issued, contact a lawyer, or visit your local courthouse.
Getting the legal help you need
For more information on how to protect yourself from an abusive spouse, contact a women’s shelter, a domestic hotline, or a family law or criminal law lawyer. If you are considering representing yourself in a family law matter, you may wish to get help from The Family Law Coach. Their experienced family law lawyers can provide information, legal assistance, advice and practical tips to help you prepare your case and improve your outcome. They provide specific services for fixed prices, and you only pay for the services you want. If you are considering hiring a lawyer to represent you, for legal advice and assistance with domestic dispute issues and other family law matters, contact a family law lawyer.
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