The general answer is no. The jurisdiction for dealing with Family Law matters with respect to custody, access and property rights under the Family Law Act, are solely the jurisdiction of the either the Superior Court or the Ontario Court of Justice, Family Court Division.
However, common-law couples, when they separate, can use Small Claims Court to settle outstanding property issues between them, so long as the amount in dispute is less than $25,000.00.
The Ontario Court of Appeal in Grover v. Hodgins first upheld that point and which has recently been reinforced in 2012 by the decision of Justice Wilcox of the Ontario Superior Court in Matteau v. Johnson. In that the case, there were claims between the parties with respect to living expense debts, money owing under an oral agreement and potentially exotic trust claims such as constructive trust.
In these circumstances, the court held that Small Claims Court did have jurisdiction. An issued had been raised as to whether or not a separation agreement or cohabitation agreement had been properly entered into. The court felt that there was no valid agreement, that it did not meet the formalities of the Family Law Act, and that the matter was completely within the four corners of Small Claims Court.
Small Claims Court is not a venue that generally justifies the expense of a lawyer. However, Dale Streiman Law LLP offers a licenced paralegal, with many years of Small Claims Court experience.
By: Fred Streiman