Victims of domestic violence face daunting challenges that necessitate expert legal guidance to secure their safety and well-being. Domestic violence inflicts deep wounds on individuals and families, leaving them in need of both protection and support. This blog post delves into the complexities of Ontario family law as it relates to domestic violence, emphasizing the pivotal role of a Toronto domestic violence lawyer in empowering victims.
One of the most serious concerns in family law is the impact of family violence. As of March 1, 2021, the Divorce Act (DA)now addresses family violence and defines it. When a divorce or separation occurs, it is essential that individuals are safeguarded from potential abuse.
Definition of Family Violence
The DA’s definition of family violence includes conduct that is violent, threatening, creates a pattern of coercive and controlling behavior, or causes a family member to fear for their safety or the safety of another individual. Furthermore, this definition does not require that the conduct be a criminal offence. Therefore, it is not subject to the threshold of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” which is the burden in criminal law. This allows the DA’s definition to extend broadly so that unique and intricate forms of family violence are captured by the definition.
To assist those in addressing and understanding the ways in which family violence may occur, the definition is supported by a non-exhaustive list of behaviors that could constitute family violence. These behaviors include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Threats to kill someone or cause them bodily harm
- Stalking and harassment
- Depriving a family member of the necessities of life
- Psychological abuse
- Coercive and controlling behavior
- Financial abuse
- Threats to kill or harm an animal
- Threats to damage property
Understanding Domestic Violence in Ontario
Domestic violence encompasses various forms of abuse within intimate relationships or family settings, including physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse. Ontario’s Family Law Act recognizes the gravity of domestic violence, offering legal remedies designed to shield victims and their children from harm.
Legal Protections for Victims
Under the Family Law Act, victims of domestic violence can obtain restraining orders, commonly known as peace bonds, to limit the abuser’s contact. These orders can encompass provisions regarding residence, communication, and the custody of children. In urgent situations, victims can also seek emergency restraining orders for immediate protection, highlighting the law’s commitment to safeguarding victims.
Child Custody and Access / Parenting Time
When domestic violence is a concern, child custody and access decisions become pivotal. Ontario family courts prioritize the child’s safety when determining custody arrangements. A skilled Toronto domestic violence lawyer can advocate for the victim, presenting compelling evidence of abuse to influence custody decisions in favor of the victimized parent.
Financial Support and Property Division
Leaving an abusive relationship often leads to financial instability for victims. Ontario family law provides avenues for seeking financial support, including spousal support and child support, ensuring economic stability for victims and their children. Additionally, a proficient domestic violence lawyer in Toronto can facilitate equitable property division, safeguarding the victim’s financial future.
The Role of a Toronto Domestic Violence Lawyer
Toronto domestic violence lawyers play a pivotal role in helping victims navigate the intricate terrain of family law. Here’s how they provide invaluable assistance:
1. **Legal Expertise**: A Toronto domestic violence lawyer possesses specialized knowledge of Ontario family law, guiding victims through the legal process with clarity and expertise.
2. **Protection Orders**: Lawyers assist victims in obtaining restraining orders promptly, offering immediate legal protection against the abuser and ensuring peace of mind.
3. **Child Custody Advocacy**: Skilled lawyers advocate passionately for victims in child custody cases, utilizing evidence of abuse to secure a safe and nurturing environment for the child.
4. **Financial Support**: Lawyers adeptly pursue financial support, empowering victims and their children with the necessary resources to rebuild their lives independently.
5. **Emotional Support**: Beyond legal representation, Toronto domestic violence lawyers offer empathy and emotional support, empowering victims to make well-informed decisions about their future.
Proving Family Violence
A frequent concern for those who have experienced family violence is whether they have sufficient evidence to prove that it occurred or that it remains ongoing. In Bidgood-Lund v. Marston, it was held that even without objective evidence, judges are still required to analyze any available evidence of family violence and may not dismiss it based on a lack of support for the allegations. In Barendregt v. Grebliunas the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that proving domestic violence is challenging which prevents many individuals from reporting it. A large reason for this is that although family violence may be extensive, the burden of proving even one incident can create safety concerns for those impacted by it. Demonstrating the existence of family violence may also impact the need for limited contact between parties or a support order. Therefore, the DA’s definition of family violence forces courts to acknowledge family violence at a threshold that is much lower than what exists in criminal matters. Additionally, this understanding of family violence seeks to assist individuals in discussing their delicate circumstances.
For victims of domestic violence in Ontario, a compassionate and expert Toronto domestic violence lawyer can be a lifeline, providing not just legal representation but also a sense of security and hope. By understanding their rights and enlisting the support of a dedicated legal professional, victims can break free from the cycle of abuse, embracing a future filled with safety, freedom, and newfound strength.
Domestic Violence Resources