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When can I begin a family court case?

Regardless of your immigration status, you can begin a family court case.

However, if your status is precarious, you should consult with both an immigration and family law lawyer before starting a case in family court, because the case could bring you to the attention of immigration authorities, especially if your partner reports you in an attempt to get you to come back to him.

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) provides family violence authorization forms for both family and immigration law, which allows you to obtain some free legal advice about your situation. These forms are usually available from women’s shelters, community legal clinics and some other community agencies. Learn more in our LAO section.

Generally, Canada’s immigration laws attempt to support women subjected to intimate partner abuse to stay safe and to leave those relationships if they wish to without jeopardizing their legal status in Canada. However, the law changes frequently, so it is important to work with a lawyer who can advise you appropriately.

If you can start a case without risking deportation, this may buy you extra time in Canada, because immigration proceedings – including deportation proceedings – can be adjourned while other court cases are completed.

The same is true if your partner has been criminally charged and you are a witness in that case.

Neither situation will allow you to stay in Canada forever if you do not have permanent status, but you may be able to stay until the end of those other legal cases, during which time you may be able to take steps to move your immigration case forward.