The Court of Ontario has two divisions:
The Superior Court of Justice hears more serious cases. Most cases appear before the Ontario Court of Justice.
Within these two divisions, there are specialized branches. For example, Family Court and Small Claims Court are both branches of the Superior Court of Justice.
If a court decision or ruling is questioned, that case can go to appeal. An appeal is generally heard by a court that is senior to the one that made the first ruling.
Many appeals are heard by the Ontario Court of Appeal. This court is separate from other Ontario courts and usually provides the final ruling on a legal issue.
It is sometimes possible to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision before the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court is the country's highest court.
Family Courts are part of the Superior Court of Justice and hear cases related to family law, especially in the following areas:
This court system is being expanded across the province. Family Courts provide support services such as mediation, parenting education programs, supervised access centres and Family Law Information Centres. Family Law Information Centres provide publications, referrals to services in the community and help with the forms needed to go to court.
Small Claims Court is the busiest branch of the Superior Court of Justice. Small Claims Courts can be an easier,faster and less expensive way to settle disagreements over money or property. In small claims cases, it is very common to represent yourself instead of hiring a lawyer. These courts only hear cases where the value of the claim is below C$25,000, not including interest and costs.
Judges in Ontario are appointed by either the provincial or federal Ministry of the Attorney General. Federally appointed judges serve the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Appeal. Provincially appointed judges serve the Ontario Court of Justice.
Judges have all practised law for a minimum of ten years before being appointed. Judges at all levels of the justice system have to be impartial and are independent of the provincial and federal governments.
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