If you have a family law case, the other person (usually your former spouse) might try to use the legal system to harass (bother) or abuse you.
There are many ways the other person (the law calls them the other party) could try to do this. They might:
- misuse the court system to make life difficult for you by, for example,
- making lots of court applications to change court orders, sometimes at different courts or the wrong courts, or
- making the wrong court applications on purpose;
- embarrass you in court, or put you off going to court, by talking about your health problems (for example, postpartum depression or mental illness) in a way that isn't related to your case;
- lie in court about things that didn't happen by saying, for example, that:
- you cheated on them, to embarrass you and your family, or
- you denied them (didn't let them have) their parenting time or contact with a child;
- try to make things hard for you if they know you don't have a lawyer by, for example, filing affidavits just before going to court so you don't have time to get ready for a trial;
- make lots of settlement offers or send lots of letters to your lawyer, if you have one, so you have to pay more legal fees;
- keep you away from your support workers or lawyers;
- threaten or put pressure on any advocates, lawyers, family members, or friends who are helping you;
- use public services, such as the police and child protection workers, to make false accusations by, for example:
- pretending to be the abused person by telling the police that you're the one hurting them if you call the police, or charging you with assault if you defend yourself, or
- saying you haven't followed the terms of a parenting agreement or order.
See Court-related abuse and harassment by the YWCA for more examples of harassment through the courts or legal system.
If someone is harassing you in this way, contact the court and tell them:
- what the other person's doing and how it's affecting you,
- why you believe what they're doing is harassment,
- how their actions are stopping your case from moving forward, and
- if you have children, how the other person's actions aren't in the best interests of the child.
Most harassment happens in private, so you probably won't have any witnesses who can support your side of the story in court.
Fill out an Affidavit — General (Form 45) with as much detail about the harassment as you can. If possible, ask a friend or advocate to help you. The form tells you what to do once you've filled it out.
What can the court do?
A judge has several ways to deal with someone who's using the legal system to harass you. They can:
- dismiss (cancel) the other person's court applications,
- stop them from making any more court applications (either for a certain time or until they’ve followed some other court order),
- tell them that they need to get the court's permission to make any other applications,
- tell them that they need to pay you back for the money you spent responding to the applications,
- tell them to pay money to you (up to $5,000), or
- fine them (up to $5,000).
Judges in Provincial Court and Supreme Court can both make these kinds of orders.
If the other person doesn't do what the judge tells them to do, and the judge believes they won't comply with (obey) any other court order, the court can order the other person to go to jail for up to 30 days.
You're stronger and more resilient than you think.
Tia recognizes that her husband’s controlling behaviour is abuse and that she has options in our story When behaviour is abuse.