If your spouse is harassing you through the courts

Provincial Court
Supreme Court

If the other person (the law calls them the other party) in your family law case is using the legal system to abuse or harass you, there are some steps you can take to make them stop.

Here are some examples of how the other person in a family law case might harass you by using the court or the legal system. They might:

  • misuse the court system to make life difficult for you by, for example,
    • making lots of court applications, sometimes at different courts or the wrong courts, to change court orders, 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 committed adultery (cheated on them) to embarrass you and your family, or
    • you didn't let them have their parenting time or contact with a child;
  • try to make things hard for you because 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, or
    • making lots of settlement offers or sending lots of letters to your lawyer 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:
    • saying you denied them parenting time or contact with the children, or
    • 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.

See Court-related abuse and harassment by the YWCA for examples of harassment through the courts or legal system.

You might be able to get free legal representation (a lawyer paid by legal aid) to help you if you're being harassed in this way. See Serious family problems and What is legal aid? to find out more.

What can the court do?

The judge has a few 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 the other person from making any more court applications (either for a certain time or until the person has followed some other court order),
  • tell the other person they need to get the court's permission to make any other applications,
  • tell the other person they need to pay you back for the money you spent responding to the applications,
  • tell the other person to pay money to you (up to $5,000), or
  • fine the other person (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.

If you go to Provincial Court, you can take a support person to help you deal with being in court. See Can you take a support person to Provincial Court? to find out more about how a support person can help.

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When behaviour is abuse

Tia recognizes that her husband’s controlling behaviour is abuse and that she has options in our story When behaviour is abuse.

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