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Court related services & agencies

You will likely become involved with at least one court-related service during your family law case. Even if you are trying to work things out with your ex-partner without starting a court case, you may find it helpful to turn to some of the services associated with family court for information or support.

Here are some tips when dealing with these services and agencies.

Tip #1: Know who you are dealing with

Take the time to learn a bit about the service before you decide whether or not it is for you. Ask some questions before you commit to using any service to which you are referred:

  • What does this service do?
  • Do you think you need it (e.g., what can it do for you and your family)?
  • Does the service have the power to interfere in your life more than you want it to?
  • Can you be required to provide information you might not want to?
  • Does the service have an obligation to report what you tell it to anyone else (e.g., the police, the court, CAS)?
  • Is there a formal complaints process you can use if you are not happy with the service you receive?

pencilsTip #2: Be prepared

The better prepared you are, the better your interactions with court-related services will go. Once you have found out everything you can about the service you are working with, you should:

  • Make sure your court file (your copies of everything in your official court file) is up to date, complete and well organized. You want to be able to find any documents you need quickly, without having to shuffle through bags or boxes of miscellaneous materials.
  • If you have not already written out a chronological history of the abuse you have been subjected to, now is a good time to do that because you will need to be able to refer to it when dealing with most court-related services.
  • The same is true for the history of parenting. Take the time, if you have not already done so, to write down who was responsible for various parenting responsibilities both before and after you and your partner separated. You might find this easier to do if you divide up parenting tasks into categories:
    • Education: Who arranges for the children’s daycare or schooling?
      Who supervises homework, goes to parent-teacher interviews, gets the
      children off to school, makes their lunches, goes on field trips, attends
      special events, meets any special learning needs your children have, etc.
    • Recreational: Who signs the kids up for lessons, team sports, etc?
      Who gets them there? Who is in charge of buying equipment?
      Washing smelly hockey gear? Bringing the team snacks?
    • Health: Who takes the children to the doctor and dentist?
      Who keeps track of and manages health issues? Who do the children
      turn to when they are sick or injured?
    • Religion: If your family is religious, who takes the lead involving the
      children?
    • Family time: Who makes sure the kids see members of your extended
      families? Who organizes family outings and vacations? Who keeps track
      of what the kids are watching on YouTube or TV?
    • Social: Who knows who your children’s friends are? Who keeps track
      of where they are and how to find them?

Talk to your lawyer, if you have one, about any services you are working with. Your lawyer needs this information to manage your case appropriately. In some cases – for instance, mediation – you should get legal advice before signing any documents.

Tip #3: Work with an advocate

Working with court-related services can be intimidating and overwhelming, especially if your partner is engaging in legal bullying and trying to maintain his power and control over you. A Family Court Support Worker or legal advocate from a women’s shelter can be very helpful in these situations. She can:

  • Provide you with emotional support.
  • Help you prepare for and debrief with you after meetings.
  • Provide you with information about the family court process.
  • Assist you with safety planning.
  • In some cases, review your paperwork.
  • In some cases, accompany you to meetings.
  • Advocate on your behalf, if necessary.

Tip #4: Stay strong

Working with some court-related services can be intimidating because of the power they hold, but remember that you are in charge of your situation.

If you feel overwhelmed or as though you are not being treated fairly, say so and insist that you have the time to talk to your advocate and your lawyer, if you have one.

Do your best not to get pressured into “agreeing” to something that you do not think is best for your children or you.

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