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Family Law during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Limitation Periods and Procedural Timelines

In Ontario, the Family Law Act and the Family Law Rules set out the procedural timelines and limitation periods for family law matters. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the court closure, the courts have Ordered that all limitation periods and procedural timelines be suspended effective March 16, 2020.

The Order was made pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and the limitation periods and procedural timelines will be suspended for the duration of the emergency period, with the duration being subject to renewal.

In family law, parties are subject to a six year limitation period from the date of their separation to commence a court action to divide (or equalize) their property. As a result of the suspension, parties will be able to commence court proceedings to equalize their property even if their limitation period expired between March 16, 2020 and then end of the emergency period.

Parties are also subject to strict procedural timelines to serve and file their materials when they are involved in a family court proceeding. One effect of suspending procedural times is a party cannot be noted in default for failing to serve their responding materials within 30 days of being served with court application.

The Order did not address how limitation periods and procedural timelines that expire after March 16, 2020 will be dealt with once the emergency period has ended.

If you have questions about a limitation period in your family law matter or if you require assistance beginning or responding to a family court proceeding, please contact a member of the McKenzie Lake family law team.