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There are laws to help protect you or your children from threats and violence. If you are fearful that your current or former partner will harm you or your children, you can ask the court for a restraining order.

A restraining order is a family court order to help protect your health and safety. It can limit:

  • what someone can do
  • where someone can go
  • who they can contact

If you have children, the order can apply to them too.

A restraining order includes a list of conditions that can either be:

  • general, for example the person must stay away from you or cannot communicate with you or your children
  • specific, for example the person cannot go within 500 metres of your home, workplace or your child's school

These conditions can be tailored for your specific situation. Not following the conditions in a restraining order is a crime.

Who can get a restraining order

You can apply for a restraining order at family court if you are concerned about your or your children’s safety and you:

  • were married or lived together for any period of time
  • have a child with the person

You cannot file a restraining order against someone you have never lived with, or don’t have children with, but you can ask a court for a peace bond, which can be made against anyone.

Getting legal advice

You don’t need a lawyer to apply for a restraining order, but it can be a good idea. A lawyer can help you to navigate the process, especially if your case includes complicating issues like immigration or parenting arrangements for a child. Judges and court staff cannot give you legal advice. Only lawyers can give you legal advice.

The Law Society Referral Service can provide you with the name of a lawyer who practices family law and will provide a free initial consultation of up to 30 minutes. If you are unable to use the online service because you are in a crisis, you may call 416-947-5255 or toll free 1-855-947-5255.

The Law Society of Ontario also maintains a list of lawyers in Ontario.

If you can’t hire a lawyer for your whole case, you may choose to hire a lawyer who is willing to give “unbundled legal services” or “limited scope services.” This means that the lawyer provides you with initial advice or helps you with specific steps in your case.

If you can’t afford a lawyer, you may wish to contact Legal Aid Ontario (1-800-668-8258) to see if you are eligible to receive legal aid. If you have experienced family violence and need legal help right away, you might be able to get two hours of free advice from Legal Aid Ontario.

You might also be able to get help from a Family Court Support Worker.

Apply for a restraining order

Step 1: Find a family courthouse near you

Find a courthouse to file your application. You should choose the court in the municipality where you or the other party lives. If your application involves parenting arrangements, you can start your case in the municipality where your children live.

Step 2: Fill out an application

If you have not already started a family court case relating to other issues, you will need to file a Form 8: Application (General) to start the court process. In your application, you can ask for more than just a restraining order if there are other family law issues that you want a judge to decide, but you might need supporting court forms.

For help filling out your court forms, you can use Family Law Guided Pathways, an online service that asks you a series of questions and puts your answers into the required forms. The pathways are free to use.

To support an application for a restraining order you should also complete a:

  • Continuing Record, including a Table of Contents (not required if you are filing your documents online using the Family Submissions Online portal). You can find more information about the Continuing Record in A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 5: Filing Documents
  • Canadian Police Information Centre Restraining Order Information Form. This form is only available at the family court counter. If a restraining order is made, this form will be sent to police along with a copy of the order

You will need to provide an address on the application. Be aware that the person you are seeking a restraining order against will receive a copy of these papers and may file a response to your request. If you don’t want to use your own address, you can use another address where you can receive mail. You can’t use a post office box because during the court process, documents must be received by a person.

When you complete the application and accompanying documents, you can

If you file your documents in person, you should make copies of everything that the clerk returns to you in order to serve a copy on the respondent. You should keep a copy for yourself.

If you need an order right away

If you need a restraining order urgently, you can file a motion at the same time as your application. A motion is a step in a case where you ask a judge to decide issues on a temporary basis (for example, your application may be for child support or parental decision-making responsibility, but you also need a restraining order to be made immediately).

In your motion, you will need to tell the judge why you need a restraining order right away. The application and motion materials must be served (delivered) to the other person so that they are aware that you are starting a court case, and that you are also bringing a motion for a restraining order.

A motion without notice can be made for an urgent restraining order if:

  • you do not know where to locate the other person
  • there is an immediate danger that your children will be removed from Ontario or that you or your children will be harmed
  • providing notice in advance could have serious consequences

A motion for a temporary restraining order (with or without notice) is made by filing these documents with the court:

If your motion was made without notice, the other person will find out later if a temporary restraining order is granted. They will be served with a copy of the order and your motion documents after the order is made.

Step 3: Serve the documents

You will have to serve (deliver) the respondent with:

  • a copy of your court-issued documents that you filed at Step 2 so that the other person knows that you have started a case against them
  • a blank copy of Form 10: Answer

Be sure to keep a copy of all documents for yourself.

Someone other than you deliver the documents to the respondent. You can ask a friend or a family member who is over the age of 18 to do this, or you can hire a process server. You can search for process servers online.

If it isn’t safe for a friend or family member to serve the documents and you cannot afford to hire a process server, you can ask court staff to arrange to have your documents served for you.

Whoever serves the documents must complete Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. This is proof to the court that the documents were served on the other person. If the court arranges service for you, the court will also take care of this step free of charge.

When the other person is served with an application, they may set out their response to the application in Form 10: Answer and file it with the court. T ohether person must serve you or your lawyer with a copy of their Answer.

For more information, see A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 6: Service. You can also refer to Rule 6 of the Family Law Rules.

Step 4: Confirm you will be in court on the date of the hearing

Once you have a date for your motion or application to be heard by a judge, you will need to complete and file a Form 14C: Confirmation with the court at least two days before your hearing date. This confirms with the court that you will attend court on the date and time of the hearing. If you do not file the confirmation, the court date may no longer be available for you. This confirmation form is not required for a motion that was filed without notice to the other party.

If you are not proceeding on an urgent basis, you will need to either attend a first appearance court date or a case conference, depending on which court you filed your case.

Step 5: Go to court to explain your case

It is important to be in court on your hearing date. When your application or motion is heard, the judge will consider what you and the other person have written in your court documents and what you tell the court in person. Depending on the circumstances of your case, it could take more than one hearing before the judge decides the matter.

If your motion was made without notice, the judge will decide whether to grant a temporary restraining order without hearing or receiving documents from the other person.

If you do not have a lawyer, it is a good idea to speak with duty counsel when you arrive at court. Duty counsel are lawyers who are paid by Legal Aid Ontario to help people who do not have a lawyer on the day of their hearing and who have a low income. You can find more information about LAO’s services on their website.

Step 6: When a restraining order is made

If the judge makes a restraining order, family court staff will prepare the order for you.

Always keep a copy of the restraining order with you. If you have children who are also protected by the restraining order, it is a good idea to give a copy of the order to the children’s school or childcare provider. A copy could be useful if the person restrained disobeys any of the terms of the restraining order and the police are called.

If a temporary restraining order is made, it will end on the date in the order or may end when you and the other person return to court for another hearing. When you return to court, the judge may:

  • continue the temporary order
  • make the order final
  • end the restraining order

After an order is made

The person who is subject to a restraining order must obey the terms of the order as soon as it comes to their attention. They will find out about the order because they were:

  • in court to hear the judge make the order
  • served with a copy of the order

Disobeying a restraining order is a criminal offence. If you think the person restrained has disobeyed the order, you should call the police.

Making changes to a restraining order

If you are in contact with the restrained person to talk about a change to the restraining order, be sure to have a safety plan in place. In addition to women’s shelters, there are community groups and legal clinics that may provide assistance to women involved in the court process.

It is a good idea to have the help of a lawyer if you are thinking about changing your restraining order.

If you and the person who is subject to the restraining order agree to make changes to the order, you will need to complete and file:

If you do not agree, you will need to complete the following forms and have them served on the other person:

For more information, see A Guide to Procedures in Family Court, Part 10: Motions to Change a Final Order or Written Agreement. You can also refer to Rule 15 of the Family Law Rules.