You have determined you are ready to go to court, formulated a game plan and are ready submit your documents to the court to start your application. The first question is: which court will hear your matter and where do you file the court documents? If you and your spouse live in the same city, then the answer is simple: it only makes sense to file your documents in the city where you both live. However, if you live in different cities, or even different provinces, the answer is more complicated – should the court application be brought in your city or the city where your spouse resides?
Determining the appropriate court is a question of jurisdiction. In broad terms, jurisdiction refers to the power of the court to hear the matter that is before it and make a decision. If a matter falls outside of the jurisdiction of the court, then the court will unable to make a decision.
In Ontario, the jurisdiction of a court to hear a family law matter is addressed in the Family Law Rules (the “Rules”). Section 5 of the Rules states that a case shall be started:
- in the municipality where a party resides;
- if the case deals with custody or access, in the municipality where the child ordinarily resides; or
- in a municipality chosen by all parties, but only with the court’s permission given in advance in that municipality.
There are exceptions to these rules such as when the proceedings are to address custody and access, there is immediate danger to a child’s health or safety, or immediate danger that a child may be removed from Ontario. However, in most cases, the courts will refuse to accept documents unless one of the above requirements is met.
Jurisdiction can be tricky to navigate. The lawyers in our Toronto office have experience dealing with jurisdictional issues. If you are having trouble determining where to start your action, or facing an action in the wrong municipality, call us to set up an initial consultation. We have offices in Downtown Toronto, Burlington, Newmarket, and Vaughan for your convenience.