What if your ex is harassing you through the courts?

What is court harassment?

Court-related abuse and harassment happens when one party in a family law case uses the legal system or repeated or ongoing legal actions to harass and abuse the other party. Some examples of this type of harassment are when, to deliberately harass the other party, the abuser:

  • repeatedly threatens to go to court to get parenting orders;
  • makes multiple court applications, sometimes at different or wrong courts, to get, change, or overturn court orders;
  • makes incorrect court applications;
  • files affidavits just before going to court, knowing the other party doesn't have a lawyer;
  • makes trivial court applications;
  • humiliates the other party in court using a history of his or her health problems (for example, post-partum depression or mental illness);
  • lies in court about actions that didn't happen, such as adultery, to cause shame to the family;
  • makes false claims, such as denial of parenting time, contact with a child, or access;
  • gets friends or family to write false affidavits, or self-inflicts an injury to create evidence of abuse that doesn't exist;
  • makes up a crisis to get into court quickly when the other party doesn't have a lawyer;
  • uses court delaying tactics to cause financial hardship for the other party, often in cases of child support, or makes multiple settlement offers to deliberately add to the other party's legal costs;
  • isolates the other party from the support workers/lawyers, or threatens or pressures advocates, lawyers, family members, or friends who are helping them;
  • uses public services, such as the police and child protection workers, to make false accusations (such as denial of access);
  • shows police out-dated court orders to gain access, which can result in the other party filing unnecessary court paperwork and giving the abuser time to get a court order; or
  • confuses the situation by pretending to be the abused person when police are called, or charges assault when the other party is defending him/herself, or forces the other party to drop charges and then uses that in court to prove the other party is lying.

If you're financially eligible, you may qualify for legal representation (a lawyer paid by legal aid) because of these or similar instances of court-related harassment. For more information about legal representation, see the legal aid Serious family problems and How to apply for legal aid pages.

What can the court do about it?

The judge can make many types of orders to deal with behaviour that misuses or interferes with the proper court process. The judge could:

  • dismiss or strike out the other party's court applications,
  • prohibit the other party from making any more court applications (either for a period of time or until the party has followed some other court order),
  • require the other party to get the court's permission to make any other applications,
  • require the other party to cover the expenses you paid to respond to the applications, or
  • order the other party to pay money to you (up to $5,000) or a fine (up to $5,000).

If the other party does not obey one of these orders, there can be serious consequences, including court fines or orders to pay you money.

These kinds of orders can be made by both Provincial and Supreme Court judges.

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