Sponsorship Breakdown

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1 Sponsorship Breakdown An Information Guide NEW CANADIANS CENTRE PETERBOROUGH

2 Published by the New Canadians Centre Peterborough, September 2006 Disclaimer This booklet contains general information. It is not intended to give you legal advice on your particular problem. This booklet is up to date as of September Please remember that the law can change, and policies and practices can also change. Credits The structure of this booklet and some of the content is based on the publication Sponsorship Breakdown produced by the Legal Services Society of British Columbia. Additional information comes from material produced by Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) and from Legal Aid Ontario s web site. Special thanks to the Peterborough Community Legal Clinic for assisting with a review and edit of the Ontario Works information. New Canadians Centre Peterborough 205 Sherbrooke Street, Unit D Peterborough, ON K9J 2N2 Tel: (705) Fax: (705)

3 Contents Introduction Who is this booklet for?... 3 What is in this booklet?... 3 Sponsorship and Sponsorship Breakdown What is sponsorship?... 4 What are my responsibilities as a sponsored person in Canada?... 4 What are my rights as a sponsored person in Canada?... 4 What is sponsorship breakdown?... 5 What will Canada Immigration do to me if my sponsorship breaks down?... 5 Can my sponsor make me leave Canada?... 6 What will happen to my sponsor if the sponsorship breaks down?... 6 What if my sponsor is hurting or scaring me?... 6 What can happen to an abusive sponsor?... 7 What will happen to my children and our house?... 7 Applying for Ontario Works Where can I get help if my sponsor will not support me?... 7 How do I apply for Ontario Works?... 8 What information will I have to give when I apply?... 8 What forms will I have to fill out to apply?... 9 What if I do not speak English very well?... 9 Do I have an obligation to try to get support from my sponsor? What will I have to do to try to get support from my sponsor? What if my sponsor tells Ontario Works that they are still supporting me? What if my sponsor has abused me? What if my sponsor has my documents? How long do I have to wait to get Ontario Works? What if I need help right away? Will my sponsor be contacted? Can I still sponsor my family members if I go on Ontario Works? What can I do if my Ontario Works application is turned down? What if I lose all my appeals?... 13

4 Family Law What is Family Law? What is legal separation? What is custody of children? What are my spouse s support obligations under Family Law? Does the sponsorship agreement affect spousal support? What happens to the property I shared with my spouse including my house? What is a written separation agreement? If I am married, how do I end my marriage? What if I am not married? Where can I get more information about family law issues? How do I get a lawyer? What should I know about working with my lawyer? What should I expect from my lawyer? What if I am turned down by Legal Aid? What if I am on Ontario Works? What other legal help is available? What If I do not have Permanent Resident Status? What if... My Permanent Residence Application is in progress? I am a Refugee Claimant? I am a Live-In Caregiver? I have Temporary Status or No Status? Resources CLEO (legal information in simple language) Ontario Works Legal Aid Community Legal Clinics Family Courts & Family Law Information Centres New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 2

5 Introduction This booklet gives you some information about what to do if the person who sponsored you to come to Canada will not support you. It can be frightening when this happens, but there is help available. This booklet explains how to get help as quickly as possible. Who is this booklet for? This booklet is for you if you came to Canada as a family class immigrant from outside of Canada. This means that a family member such as your child, grandchild, spouse, common-law partner, or a parent living in Canada sponsored you to come into the country. Family class immigrants come to Canada with immigrant visas and become permanent residents when they enter Canada. Throughout this booklet, the term sponsored refers to someone brought into Canada under these terms. A lot of this booklet does not apply to you if you: are in Canada with temporary status (such as a visitor or student) or no status, came to Canada as a refugee or as the relative of a refugee, cameasafamilymemberofanentrepreneurclassimmigrant,or came to Canada as a live-in caregiver. If you are being sponsored from within Canada, one of the above categories applies to you. The section of this booklet called What if I do not have Permanent Resident Status? talks about these categories further. If you have temporary status and your application for permanent residence has been made, some of the information in this booklet about Ontario Works and the Family Law is also important for you to know about. What is in this booklet? The first section of this booklet has basic information about sponsorship. It also tells you what can happen if your sponsorship breaks down. The second section tells you how you can apply for Ontario Works (social assistance) if your sponsorship breaks down. The third section gives you information about family law. The Resources section contains a list of organizations and websites that can help you further with Ontario Works, family law and immigration matters. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 3

6 Sponsorship and Sponsorship Breakdown What is sponsorship? Canadian citizens and permanent residents who live in Canada can apply to sponsor (bring) their family members to live with them in Canada. Anyone who applies to sponsor a relative may have to meet certain income requirements. The sponsor must also agree to support the person for 3 to 10 years. The length of time of this support can depend on the age of the sponsored person and how he or she is related to the sponsor. An eligible person can sponsor his or her husband or wife; common-law partner; conjugal partner; dependent children (biological or adopted); parents; grandparents; brother, sister, nephew, niece, or grandchi ld (under 18 years old, orphaned, and not married). In this booklet, we use the word spouse to refer to a husband, wife, or common-law partner of the same or opposite sex. If someone does not have enough money to support the relative he or she wants to sponsor, a spouse can help. This second person is called the co-signer of the sponsorship agreement. In this booklet, we use theword sponsor torefertoboththesponsorandanyco-signer. The federal government is in charge of sponsorships through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (called Canada Immigration in this booklet). Anyone who sponsors a person to come to Canada must sign an undertaking a promise to the government to support the person he or she sponsors. This means he or she agrees to provide that person with food, clothing, a place to live, and other essential things. The sponsor also agrees to pay medical costs such as dental or eye care. What are my responsibilities as a sponsored person in Canada? If a relative has sponsored you to come to Canada, you would have signed a sponsorship agreement with the sponsor. In this agreement you promised that you would try to support yourself and to ask your sponsor for help before you go to the government for support. What are my rights as a sponsored person in Canada? When someone is sponsored to come to Canada as a family class immigrant, they get permanent resident status when they arrive in the country. Permanent residents have the right to stay in Canada unless they violate Canada s immigration laws. You also have the right to work in Canada. You may also be eligible to receive some benefits, such as Employment Insurance (EI); Workers Compensation and the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB). New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 4

7 There are laws in Canada against violence against women, children, and the elderly, unfair pay, unsafe working conditions, job discrimination, and discrimination in providing public services. These laws apply to everyone in Canada no matter what their immigration status. For more information about these benefits and rights, see the Resources section of this booklet. What is sponsorship breakdown? Sponsorship breakdown is when your sponsor cannot or will not provide for some or all of your basic needs, such as food, housing, clothing, or medical care, and you are unable to support yourself and/or your dependants. Some examples of a sponsorship breakdown are when your sponsor wants to support you, but no longer has enough money; allows you to stay in his or her home, but does not pay for your food, clothing, or medical needs; says you must leave the house and refuses to support you; leaves you and no longer supports you; or refuses to support you after you leave the marriage or common-law relationship. Sometimes a sponsor treats you so badly that you have to leave, even if he or she does not tell you to go. For example, you have the right to leave your sponsor if he or she is abusive (for example, forces you to have sex, physically harms you, threatens you, or scares you by yelling at you); or makes unreasonable demands, such as forcing you to work for him or her for no money. If you are in this situation, it is a kind of sponsorship breakdown. What will Canada Immigration do to me if my sponsorship breaks down? Canada Immigration should not do anything to you if your sponsorship breaks down, because you received permanent resident status when you arrived in Canada. You cannot be deported from Canada because your sponsorship has broken down. You will not lose your permanent resident status even if you need to apply for Ontario Works (a social assistance program that gives money to people who qualify for basic necessities such as housing, food, and clothing). If you do not have permanent resident status see the section of this booklet called What if I don t have Permanent Resident Status? and the Resources section. You cannot be deported from Canada because your Sponsorship has broken down. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 5

8 Can my sponsor make me leave Canada? No. Your sponsor cannot make you leave Ca nada, no matter what kind of problem you have with him or her. Only Canada Immigration can order a person to leave the country and you cannot be deported from Canada because of sponsorship breakdown. If anyone else tells you to leave, you do not have to go. If you are being forced out of Canada, get help immediately. Staff at the New Canadians Centre can help you find assistance. Your sponsor cannot make you leave Canada What will happen to my sponsor if the sponsorship breaks down? If your sponsor does not support you for the time they promised and you have to go on Ontario Works, the sponsor will not be allowed to sponsor other family members unless they pay the government all the money that Ontario Works gave you. What if my sponsor is hurting or scaring me? If you are in immediate danger, you should call the emergency number 911 on your telephone. You have the right to leave some one who is hurting or scaring you even if that person sponsored you. If your spouse is your sponsor, you still have the right to end your relationship. If your children sponsored you but are now abusing you, you can get help. If you are a woman, there are safe places you can go. You and your children can stay at a women s shelter until you find a better place to live. These places are free. Even if you are not in immediate danger, but your sponsor is intimidating or scaring you, you need to get help as soon as possible. The staff at the New Canadians Centre can give you more information. The phone numbers of shelters are listed on the Emergency Numbers page at the front of a telephone book. REMEMBER: If you are scared, it may be hard to understand your English. Always remember to ask for an interpreter. This is you right. KNOW THAT laying criminal charges against someone who has hurt you will NOT affect your permanent resident status. It is also possible to get a restraining order against someone who is scaring or abusing you. A restraining order is an order from the Family Court directing a person not to do something (for example, an order not to communicate and to stay away from a former partner). A restraining order is usually ordered in cases of relationship abuse or where stalking is feared. Legal Aid may be available (see Resources section). If you do get an order against someone, it is important for you to keep the pieceofpaperwithyouatalltimes. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 6

9 What can happen to an abusive sponsor? If the police are contacted, the abuser could be charged with a criminal offence. If the abuser is not a Canadian citizen, a criminal conviction can lead to the abuser being removed from Canada. In most cases, a permanent resident who is ordered deported has a right to appeal that decision. What will happen to my children and our house? If your spouse is your sponsor and your sponsorship breaks down, this does not mean that your spouse has the right to keep your children or your property. These issues are talked about in detail in the Family Law section of this booklet. Applying for Ontario Works Where can I get help if my sponsor will not support me? If your sponsor stops supporting you or refuses to continue to support you and you cannot support yourself, you can ask your local Ontario works office for help. Ontario Works (OW) is a form of social assistance that is paid at the beginning of each month to residents of a community who qualify for help. Sometimes this assistance is called welfare. If you have a disability you may qualify for another form of social assistance called the Ontario Disability Support Program. This program is administered by the provincial government through the Ministry of Community and Social Services. Although the federal government is in charge of sponsorships, Canada Immigration cannot give you assistance if your sponsorship breaks down, and it does not help you get money from your sponsor. You should know that the wording of the Sponsorship Agreement gives you the right to take legal action against your sponsor to get money for your support. This does not usually happen, probably because the process could be expensive if you hired a lawyer (no Legal Aid is available) and because sponsored persons who are spouses can get support through the Family Law. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 7

10 How do I apply for Ontario Works? You can begin the application process for Ontario Works over the phone or by going to the local OW office. There are OW offices in Peterborough, Lindsay, and Cobourg (addresses and phone numbers are listed in the Resources section of this booklet). At the beginning of the application process, you will receive information about the Ontario Works program. You will also be told what information and documents may be needed to complete the application process. For example, you may need: Social Insurance Card number; Health card number; proof of identity, date of birth, and status in Canada; copy of Sponsorship Agreement and Undertaking; employment history/information; income and asset statements; and shelter costs. The application process is completed in person at your local OW office. You will be given an appointment time. If you do not have all of your documentation, OW may still be able to give you benefits and also help you get your documents. In this situation, you may need to sign a form called a statutory declaration in which you declare that the information given is true. What information will I have to give when I apply? You will be asked for information about yourself, each member of your family, and anyone else who lives with you. This information includes: family size and age of family members, income from all sources, assets (in Canada and overseas including money in bank accounts, land, vehicles), debts (including money you owe on credit cards, to the bank, and to other people), housing arrangements, expenses for basic needs and your education, employment status and employment history. In addition to the documents already mentioned, you may be asked for: legal papers, proof of school attendance, proof of income from all sources, bank records and other documents relating to assets, life insurance policies, leases and rent receipts, mortgage information, bills relating to housing costs, and proof of debts. You should not be asked for information that is not related to your eligibility for financial assistance. You should not have to provide a document that you cannot get, or that you cannot afford to get. Ontario Works may be able to order copies of documents or pay the cost of getting documents. Your local Community Legal Clinic (which gives free legal assistance on Ontario Works issues) can also help with documents. See the Resources section of this booklet. It is important that you keep copies of all documents that you give to Ontario Works. You may ask them to make photocopies so that you can keep the originals. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 8

11 What forms will I have to fill out to apply? You will have to complete and sign the follo wing forms before your application will be considered complete: 1) Application for Financial Assistance 2) Participation Agreement 3) Consent to Disclose and Verify Information 4) Rights and Responsibilities Form The Participation Agreement lists activities that you have to do to get financial assistance, for example, a job search or workfare placement. You and the worker are expected to agree on activities that will help you get a job as soon as possible. It is very important that you understand what you are agreeing to do before you sign. You are expected to do what you agree to. If you do not, your assistance could be refused, cut off, or reduced. If you cannot do what the Agreement says, you can ask to have it changed. Changes must be negotiated with the worker and each change should be put down in writing. If you cannot work or train because of a health problem, you may not have to agree to the usual participation requirements. The Consent to Disclose and Verify Information is a form that allows OW to check the information that you provide. You should only have to consent to the release of information that is needed for your application. The Rights and Responsibilities Form describes what you can and cannot do while you are getting OW financial assistance. You must sign it in order to get assistance. Asktheworkertogooverthisformwithyousothatyouunderstandwhatitsays. What if I do not speak English very well? IfyoudonotunderstandorspeakEnglishverywell,youhavetherighttohave someone interpret for you. OW can order an interpreter for you and they will pay the cost. You also have the right to bring someone with you for support. Ask someone you trust, such as a friend, relative, neighbour, or someone from a community group. It is best to bring someone other than your sponsor. Tell the worker who the person is. Keep in mind that you will be asked to sign documents and to provide information that will determine whether you are eligible for financial assistance. It is very important that you understand clearly what you are signing and what the worker tells you. If you need more time or help to understand the documents, ask for copies to take away and read before you sign. Yo u can also take the documents to the Community Legal Clinic for advice. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 9

12 Do I have an obligation to try to get support from my sponsor? Ontario Works policy says that usually someone who is applying for Ontario Works must make reasonable efforts to get support from their sponsor. However, if the sponsor is eligible or receiving payments under certain government programs (including Ontario Works) there is no obligation to try to get support. There is also no obligation to try to get support if there has been family violence by the sponsor. Ontario Works needs some evidence of family violence such as a copy of a report from a woman s shelter, a hospital or the police. If you do not have these documents, you or a witness may be able to sign a statutory declaration. The Community Legal Clinic can help you. If you have moved out of your sponsor s home, that may also affect your obligation to trytogetsupport.talktonewcanadianscentrestaffaboutthis. WhatwillIhavetodototrytogetsupportfrommysponsor? If you do have an obligation to pursue support from your sponsor, you will be asked to fill out and sign a form with the name of your sponsor and which says that you intend to pursue support. If your sponsor is your spouse, OW may require that you begin family law proceedings against your sponsor if there is a chance that you could get a court order for spousal or child support. Your worker will arrange for you to meet with a Family Support Worker at OW to talk about getting support from a spouse. Family law is talked about in the next section of this booklet. Your application for Ontario Works may be tu rned down if you have the obligation to pursue support but refuse to provide information regarding your sponsorship or if you tell them that you will not pursue support. You may also be refused assistance if your sponsor does not know that you are in need of assistance, or if you cannot show that you have made reasonable efforts to get support from your sponsor. What if my sponsor tells Ontario Works that they are still supporting me? If your sponsor claims that they are still supporting you and that is not true, it is important to communicate that as clearly as possible to Ontario Works. Ask whether the sponsor has provided evidence of this claim. If Ontario Works denies your application for assistance because of this, help is available from the Community LegalClinic.See WhatcanIdoifmyOntarioWorksapplicationisturneddown? What if my sponsor has abused me? As mentioned above, if the sponsorship has broken down because of family violence which can be verified, you will not have to try to get support from your sponsor. It is important to tell OW if you have been threatened or abused by your sponsor and to give them as many details as possible including any evidence you have of the abuse. New Canadians Centre staff can assist you in preparing to speak with OW about abuse. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 10

13 What if my sponsor has my documents? If you are afraid to ask your sponsor for your documents, or you think your sponsor will not give them to you, you can apply to Canada Immigration for a certified copy of your permanent resident papers or a replacement permanent resident card. For more information, phone Canada Immigration at The Ontario Works office should be able to order copies of your sponsorship agreement and undertaking ifyoudonothavethem. The police can help you get your documents from your sponsor. The police cannot make your sponsor give you the papers, but they can make sure you are safe while you are there. You can apply for assistance even if you do not have all your documents. In this situation, you will probably need to sign a form called a statutory declaration in which you declare that the information you have given is true. How long do I have to wait to get Ontario Works? If your application is successful it should take from 1-2 weeks from the time you have finished your application until you get your first cheque. Your worker can give you more information. What if I need help right away? If you have an immediate need for a place to stay, OW can help you get temporary overnight shelter. Try to get as much help as possible from family, friends and community groups. New Canadians Centre staff can also help you access community resources. Will my sponsor be contacted? Your sponsor will probably be contacted by Ontario Works officials unless there is a situation of violence or abuse. Ontario Works sends letters to sponsors and sometimes interviews them about why they have defaulted on their support obligations. Canada Immigration also sends letters to sponsors notifying them that they will not be allowed to sponsor again unless they meet their support obligations under existing sponsorship agreements. Both levels of government also have the right to take legal proceedings against the sponsor. CanIstillsponsormyfamilymembersifIgoonOntarioWorks? You cannot sponsor anyone to come to Cana da while you are on Ontario Works. Once you are able to support yourself and earn enough money, you may qualify to sponsor your family members. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 11

14 What can I do if my Ontario Works application is turned down? The first step is to contact your local Community Legal Clinic (see Resources section). You should do this immediately as there are very strict time limits involved. Staff at the Legal Clinic can give you information and help you complete and fax the necessary forms. It is important that you take a copy of all decision letters from OW with you when you go to the Legal Clinic. Here are more general details about the appeal process: Internal Review The first stage of appeal is to send a letter to OW asking for an internal review. An internal review means that a different person in the local OW office reviews the original decision and decides whether or not to change it. This request must be in writing and must be made within 10 days from the date you receive the decision. Important Note: If you receive the decision by mail, you may have less than 10 days because OW assumes you have received the letter by the third day after it is mailed. Therefore you have 13 days from the mailing date (this date should be stamped on the envelope). It is very important to meet the time limit. If you do not, you should still request an internal review, but make sure you ask for an extension of time in your request. The OW office is supposed to make a decision on the internal review within 10 days of receiving your request. Social Benefits Tribunal If you get an internal review decision within the 10 days, and it says that you are still refused assistance, you have 30 days from the date of the decision to appeal to the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT). The SBT is separate from OW and has the power to change the decision. The SBT holds an appeal hearing near where you live and you will have a chance to go and present your case. A lawyer from the Legal Clinic may be able to represent you at your hearing. If you miss the time limit for appealing, you can ask the SBT for more time. You will have to explain why you missed the time limit. It is also possible to apply to the SBT to get assistance while you wait for the appeal to be decided. This is known as interim assistance and the application for it is included in the appeal form. If the SBT orders interim assistance, the OW office will have to pay it until your appeal is decided. If you lose your appeal or do not go to your hearing, you will have to pay back this assistance. The Legal Clinic may be able to help you get interim assistance earlier which is another reason why it is important to contact them as soon as possible after you get a negative decision. Be careful not to miss the deadlines because if you do you could lose your right to appeal and you will have to apply for Ontario Works all over again. It is important to make the best appeal you can, and because there is little time to do it, it is a good idea to get help from the Legal Clinic. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 12

15 What if I lose all my appeals? If your friends and family cannot help you, ask for help from people you already know, such as your church, temple, or community organization. The best way to deal with this difficult situation is to get as much help as possible. Talk to New Canadians Centre staff about what resources may be available to you. Family Law This section will apply to you if your sponsor is your spouse, whether or not you are married. These issues are important even if your sponsor is continuing to support you after your relationship ends. What is Family Law? Family law is the area of law that deals with separation, divorce, child custody, child and spousal support and the division of property. These subjects are talked about more below. What is legal separation? Legal separation happens as soon as you and your spouse start living apart from each other. You don t have to see a lawyer or get a legal document that says you are separated. However, a number of legal i ssues come up when you separate. If you have children, what happens to them is probably your biggest concern. You also need to deal with issues about money and the things you and your spouse own together (your property). What is custody of children? The parent who lives with children following a separation or divorce has custody of them. When you separate from your spouse, a number of different custody arrangements are possible. One parent may have sole custody of children (the other parent has access ), or both parents may share in taking care of children. If the two of you can agree on what arrangements you want for your children, you can put that in writing. You can also work with a mediator (someone who is trained to assist people in solving their legal issues), lawyers, or have the Family Court decide. It is important to get legal advice about your options. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 13

16 What are my spouse s support obligations under Family Law? If you and your spouse separate, your spouse still has a legal responsibility to help support your children together (and possibly also children that are not the spouse s children). This is called child support or maintenance. Your spouse may also have to give you support payments. This is called spousal support and it is different than sponsorship payments. Again, you and your spouse can try to work out an agreement on child support and spousal support with a mediator or lawyers. If you cannot work out an agreement you can go to Family Court. Does the sponsorship agreement affect spousal support? In awarding spousal support, the courts have found that a sponsorship agreement is a factor to be considered but that it does not take priority over the family law principles used to figure out spousal support. Therefore, just because the agreement says that your spouse will support you for 3 or 10 years does not necessarily mean that a court would order spousal support for these periods of time. It is important that you bring a copy of your sponsorship agreement and the undertaking with you when you get legal advice. What happens to the property I shared with my spouse including my house? You may have a right to some of the property you shared with your spouse. Just like with custody of children and support, the two of you can decide how to divide up your property, you can work with a mediator or lawyers, or you can go to court to do this. Getting advice from a lawyer is very important. If you are still living in the family home but are thinking about leaving, it would be a good idea to get legal advice before you leave. The spouse who stays in the family home doesn t automatically get the right to stay in the home or to sell it, but staying in the house can be important. If you cannot stay because you are worried about safety, try to get legal advice as soon as possible after you leave. Married spouses whoseparatehaveanequalrighttostayinthefamilyhomeuntilitissold,evenifthe legal title to the property is only in one of their names. Common-law spouses do not automatically have this right. What is a written separation agreement? A written separation agreement is a contract between you and your spouse that outlines what you both have agreed to about the issues arising from your separation. If you are married, it does not legally end your marriage. You and your spouse can put whatever you want in a separation agreement. For example, it can say who lives in the family home and who gets the car or television. If you have children, it can say who has custody and what the access arrangements are. It is very important that you get legal advice before signing a separation agreement. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 14

17 If I am married, how do I end my marriage? Divorce is the main way to legally end your marriage in Canada. You do not need to be a Canadian citizen to get a divorce and it does not matter if your marriage took place in another country. The only legal reason you need for a divorce in Canada is marriage breakdown. The law accepts that there has been a breakdown in your marriage if you can show that you and your spouse have lived separate and apart for one year. You and your spouse can get back together again for up to 90 days without affecting the one-year time period. In some circumstances, spouses can be living separate and apart even if they are living under the same roof but not as a couple. A divorce can be granted without waiting for a year if you can prove that your spouse committed adultery or your spouse was physically or mentally cruel to you. However, applying for a divorce on either of these grounds can be more complicated. What if I am not married? If you were living with your common-law partner and you stop living together, you are no longer considered common law spouses. You do not need to take any formal steps or legal action in order to end the relationship. However, you will need to sort out some legal issues relating to the support of yourself and your children together, and relating to your property. Your spouse has obligations to support your children together and may have an obligation to support you. Property issues are more complicated as living in a common-law relationship does not necessarily give one spouse a right to share in the property that the other spouse owned before the relationship.itisveryimportanttogetlegaladviceasearlyaspossible. Where can I get more information about family law issues? There are Family Law Information Centres at the Peterborough, Cobourg and Lindsay Family Courts. At these centres, you can speak with staff who can give you information about family law, and tell you ab out services available such as mediation (a voluntary way of resolving disputes), court procedures, and community resources. Advice lawyers are also available during limited hours to give free summary legal advice for people that meet a financial needs test. See the Resources section of this booklet. How do I get a lawyer? Lawyers can be hired privately and are normally paid by the hour. Legal bills can be expensive. If you do not have enough money to pay for a lawyer, you may qualify for legal aid under an Ontario government program. These services are usually free. In order to apply for legal aid, you must visit a Legal Aid Ontario office (there are offices in Peterborough, Lindsay and Cobourg, see the Resources section) to complete an application and financial test. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 15

18 If you are granted legal aid you will be given a certificate which you can take to a private lawyer. The legal aid office can give you a list of lawyers who accept legal aid work (not all do). It is very important to find a lawyer who specializes in family law and who you feel comfortable with. You may wa nt to consider whether you would feel morecomfortablewithamaleorfemalelawyer. What should I know about working with my lawyer? When you call to make an appointment, ask what you should bring with you. Before going to the lawyer's office, write down some notes about your case to help you talk more easily. Make a list of questions. Bring all your papers to your appointment. You can also bring a support person and/or interpreter. Tell your lawyer as much as possible about your legal problem even though you may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. Lawyers need to know all the facts so that they can help you. Answer the lawyer's questions completely and truthfully. Be clear with the lawyer about what you expect. If the lawyer knows exactly what you want, he or she will be able to help you better. Take notes during your meeting. If you are confused or don't understand something, tell your lawyer. It is important to know that a lawyer working on a legal aid certificate is only allowed to spend a limited amount of time on your case so use your time carefully. What should I expect from my lawyer? Your lawyer should explain the laws that apply to your legal problem. They should tell you what your rights are, what kind of results you can expect and how long it might take. Your lawyer should also tell you what 's going to happen next and how long it might take. Your lawyer may not always tell yo u what you want to hear or be able to fix every problem. Understand that solving legal problems takes time. A lawyer's job is also to speak on your behalf to other lawyers or professionals and to the court if that becomes necessary. What if I am turned down by Legal Aid? If you are turned down for a legal aid certificate, you may be able to get additional assistance from the Family Law Information Centre. If you are going to court, you may be able to get some help from the duty counsel at the courthouse. Duty counsel are lawyers who give free legal help to low-income people who do not have their own lawyer. You may have to show that you cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. Duty counsel can provide advice, request adjournments, and assist in settling issues. To find out more about duty counsel services, contact the Legal Aid Ontario office. Another option is to call the Lawyer Referral Service at The call costs $6.00 and will be added to your phone bill. This service can refer you to a private lawyer in your area for a free half-hour consultation. You can also call family lawyers in the phone book and ask whether they can offer you a free consultation. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 16

19 WhatifIamonOntarioWorks? Ontario Works may ask you to pursue support from your sponsor under the Family Law. OW has Family Support Workers who are supposed to try to help get support. A Family Support Worker can help you work out an agreement for support if your spouse is willing to cooperate. It is still important that you get legal advice before signing any agreement. If there is no agreement, the Family Support Worker can help you apply for a court order. Because court orders can also deal with custody and access of children, and property, it is important to get legal advice. If you are on Ontario Works and you get support, the amount of your support payment will be taken off your assistance every month. This amount will still be deducted each monthevenifyoudonotreceivethesupportpayment.ifyoudonotreceiveasupport payment contact the OW office right away. It is possible that you may be able to assign your support payments to OW so that you get the full amount of your assistance, even when support is not paid. If you get a court order for support, the order will be filed with the Family Responsibility Office (FRO) whose job is to collect support payments. What other legal help is available? Your local Community Legal Clinic (see Resources section) may be able to assist you with the following kinds of problems: Tenant Rights Ontario Works Ontario Disability Support Program Government Pensions (Canada Pension Plan) Employment Insurance Workplace Safety and Insurance and Workers' Compensation Employment Rights Criminal Injuries Compensation Human Rights New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 17

20 What if I do not have Permanent Resident status? This section applies to you if you do not have permanent resident status including if your permanent resident application is in progress, if you are a refugee claimant, a live-in caregiver, or have temporary status or no immigration status. What if my Permanent Resident Application is in progress? In this situation the sponsorship process is happening within Canada. If the person applying to sponsor you is your spouse or partner it is important to know that you risk being removed from Canada if you separate. If you leave the relationship, or are thinking about leaving, you must get advice from an immigration lawyer right away. You can still pursue your application to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. What if I am a Refugee claimant? If your claim is based on a spouse or partner s fear of persecution and your relationship breaks down, you may have difficulty establishing your claim. You need to get legal advice from your own lawyer. If you are thinking of making a refugee claim based on fear of domestic violence you should get legal advice. What if I am a Live-In Caregiver? If you are working as a foreign domestic worker under the Live-in Caregivers Program (LCP), you are at risk because you are dependent on your employer and have to wait for at least 2 years to apply for permanent resident status. If you lose your job and cannot find another one, it is possible that you will be sent home but this rarely happens. You should know that if you leave your current employer and find other fulltime, live-in domestic employment, you can ask Immigration Canada to issue you a newworkpermit. What if I have Temporary Status or No Immigration Status? If you do not have permanent resident status and want to leave an abusive situation you need to know that you are at risk of being removed from Canada. New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 18

21 Resources This section gives you information about where to find out more about the issues talked about in this booklet. Contact information and addresses for area Ontario Works, Legal Aid, Community Legal Clinics, and Family Law Information Centres are also listed. Continuing Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) CLEO is an organization that produces legal material written in simple language in English and French. Brochures are available on the Internet (click on publications and publications on-line ) and from the New Canadians Centre on topics including: Ontario Works (Social Assistance) How to apply for Ontario Works, Participation Agreements, Support payments while you are on social assistance, Where to get help with your appeal, Appeals and Internal Reviews, Disability Benefits in Ontario. Family Child Support, Custody and Access, Getting Divorced, Family Law Resources in Ontario, Common Law Relationships. Immigration & Refugee Immigrant women and domestic violence, your status as a permanent resident, sponsoring a member of the family class, medical coverage. Ontario Works Peterborough Ontario Works Office 178 Charlotte Street (Charlotte Mews) P.O. Box 4138 Peterborough, ON K9J 8S1 (705) (Press 2) 8:30am - 4:30pm Cobourg Ontario Works Office 860 William Street Cobourg, ON K9A 3A9 (905) (Press 1) 8:15am - 5:15pm Lindsay Ontario Works Office 322 Kent Street West P.O. Box 2600 Lindsay, ON K9V 4S7 (705) (Press 3) 8:00am - 4:30pm Legal Aid Peterborough Legal Aid Office 364 Water Street Peterborough, ON K9H 3L6 (705) :00am - 4:00pm Victoria & Haliburton Legal Aid Office (Lindsay) 40 Lindsay Street South Lindsay, ON K9V 2L8 (705) :30am - 4:30pm Cobourg Legal Aid Office 204 "C" Division Street Cobourg, ON K9A 4K5 (905) :30am - 4:00pm New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 19

22 Community Legal Clinics Peterborough Community Legal Clinic 150 King Street, 4th Floor Peterborough, ON K9J 2R9 (705) Walk-in service 9:00 am - 11:30 am. Not open Wednesday afternoons. Northumberland Community Legal Clinic (Cobourg) 1005 Elgin Street West, Suite 301 Cobourg, ON K9A 5J4 (905) :00am-5:00pmexcept9:00am-2:00pmonThursdays Community Legal Clinic Simcoe, Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes* 71 Colborne Street East Orillia, ON L3V 6J6 (705) ; toll free (800) * Serving Lindsay at satellite office: 322 Kent Street West (temporary address) Tuesdays and Thursdays, subject to demand appointment times 10:00 am - 3:30 pm. Call for appointment. Family Courts and Family Law Information Centres (Rules and Forms on-line) Peterborough: Family Court (Superior Court of Justice) 470 Water Street* Peterborough, ON K9H 3M3 (705) Family Law Information Centre: (705) :00am - 2:15pm except 1:30pm - 4:30pm on Thursdays. Advice lawyer available 9:30am - 12:30pm. *When this booklet was produced, the Family Court and the Family Law Information Centre were temporarily located at 70 Simcoe Street due to renovations. Cobourg: Family Court 860 William Street Cobourg, ON K9A 3A9 (905) Family Law Information Centre: (905) extension :00 am - 3:00 pm Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Advice lawyer Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 1:00pm - 4:00pm Lindsay: Family Court 440 Kent St. W. Lindsay, ON K9V 6G8 (705) Family Law Information Centre: (705) extension 413 Monday 9:00am - 3:00 pm Tuesday & Wednesday 10:00am - 2:30pm Thursday 9:00am - 12:00pm Advice lawyer: Tuesday and Thursday 10:00am - 2:00 pm New Canadians Centre Peterborough September 2006 Page 20

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