Branches of the Superior Court of Justice

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice is the largest superior trial court in Canada. The Superior Court, along with the courts that branch out on this level are some of the busiest trial courts in the world. Today we will draw our attention to the 3 courts that branch out of the Suprior Court (For more information about the court structure, please see my last post) 🙂

Divisional Court 

Athough the Divisional Court is part of the Superior Court of Justice, it is actually not a trial court . Its main function is to deal with appeals, but only certain types of appeals. Such as an appeal of government decisions in the form of a judicial review. This is to determinie whether or not there has been a mistake in coming to a fair decision by the initial judge or decision-maker. The Divisional Court will also hear judicial reviews from administrative tribunals in Ontario (For exmaple, the immigration and refugee board, worker safety insurance board, human rights tribunal etc.) It would mean that a decision on the case as already been rendered from a previous court or tribunal hearing, and the parties are now seeking to appeal the decision by bringing the matter forward to the Divisional Court. It is important to note that regardless of which administrative tribunal the decision came from, judicial review is always available to ensure procedural fairness.

Other than judicial reviews, another important  Divisional Court functions is to hear appeals from civil cases involving prior judgements of less than $50,000.00, and appeals from Small Claims Court judgements that involves more than $500 (if the judgment from Small Claims Court is less than $500, there is no right of appeal).

And the list goes on! The Divisional Court also hears appeals from summary conviction offences that were previously heard in the Ontario Court of Justice (lower level provincial court), as well as appeals from Ontario Court of Justice that had to do with family law matters —remember, family law matters are split between Ontario Court of Justice, and Superior Court of Justice court if there are no Fmaily Law Court branches in the area (see below).

Appeals in the Divisional Court are usually heard by a panel of three Superior Court Judges (odd number to avoid a tie).

Family Court

Because family law involves both provincial and federal legislation, court jurisdiction over family law matters are split between the Supierior Court and the Court of Justice. Superior Court of Justice has sole jurisdiction over matters involving divorce and division of property. The Court of Justice on the other hand, has sole jurisdiction over cases involving child protection and adoptions. These matters can always be heard at their respective courts, if no designated unified family court branch is available. It is also important to note that  both courts can preside over cases involving child and spousal support, as well as child custody and access cases.

However, in the spirit of ensuring access to effective family justice across Ontario, the Courts of Justice Act created 17 court locations across the province, separate from the Superior Court of Justice sites, where family court jurisdictions are unified — meaning in these courts, ALL family law cases can be heard, and there is no division.

The 17 unified family court branches are as follows:

Durham Region
St. Catharines
If there are no family court branches in your city, it means that the family law matter will be taken up to either the Court of Justice, or Superior Court of Justice closest to you, depending on the nature of your matter. The procedure itself is governed by Family Law Rulesa regulation under the Courts of Justice Act 
The Small Claims Court is where paralegals shine. It wasn’t always part of the Superior Court of Justice, but it now holds jurisdiction for civil cases with monetary claims of up to $25,000.00. The purpose of the Small Claims Court is to allow for a less formal procedure compared to other courts, so the process is more streamlined, and more expedient. Many people who come before the Small Claims Court represent themselves and do not obtain outside counsel (lawyer or paralegal). But if they do retain counsel, the Small Claims Court is where you will often see paralegals practice.
The Small Claims Court have many locations across the province, and judges who preside are either Superior Court of Justice judges on rotation, or Deputy Judges — which are lawyers that preside part-time, and were appointed by the senior judge in their regional Superior Court of Justice…with the approval of the Attorney General of Ontario of course 🙂
Only one judge preseides over the Small Claims Court, and its procudures are governed by a regulation under the Courts of Justice Act, adequately named Rules of the Small Claims Court


It is study week for me this week, so no classes! But I do have 3 midterms practically back-to-back when I return next week so wish me luck on all the studying that I will should be doing! I know for sure I will need it…and lots of coffee…lots….mmmm coffee…

Have a great week everyone and enjoy the fall weather outside while it still holds!




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