Great Websites to learn about the Court Process

New: CaseLines Hearings – Tips for Counsel and Self-represented Parties


1. Ontario Superior Court of Justice Website

1.1. “Lawsuits and Disputes”

This is a good starting point for those who are completely new to the civil justice system. It covers the very basic information about civil lawsuits, and includes information on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms, such as mediation and arbitration.

1.2. “Civil Cases: Suing and Being Sued in the Superior Court of Justice”

This website provides descriptions of the steps involved in a civil proceeding.

1.3. “Small Claims Court Guides to Procedures.”

2. National Self-Represented Litigant Project: “Our SRL Resources”

This website has a number of useful primers for self-represented litigants, such as “Working with Opposing Counsel” and “Suggestions from the Bench”.

3.Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO)

There is plenty of information here  covering many common legal issues, such as housing, consumer, immigration, family, etc. You can even watch webinars on a wide range of topics here.

CLEO also has a great flowchart for family law litigants.

Where to get court forms

Ontario Court Services

Court Form Templates 

Hassell Trial Counsel has pre-formatted court form templates for Ontario Superior Court matters for purchase.

Great Tools for Litigators and Self-Reps in Family Law

  1. Court Notice Finder
  2. Disclosure Clinic Resources
  3. Corollary Relief Matrimonial Page
  4. Steps to Justice Guided Pathways. These are “online interviews” that help you fill out court forms. The list is here:


  1. Legal Aid Ontario:
  2. Pro Bono Ontario:
  3. Osgoode Hall Law School Clinics:
  4. University of Toronto, Downtown Legal Services:

 Where to Find Limited Scope or Unbundled Services Lawyers

  1. Law Society Of Ontario Directory:
  2. Family Law Limited Scope Services Project:
  3. National Self-Represented Litigants Project:

Legal Research Website

You can go to CanLII to look up legislation and case law for free. Click on the link here:

Book list

The following is a list of a few titles which I found particularly helpful as a self-represented litigant. Most of these are available either in the Toronto Public Library or the university Law Library (UT, York).

*David Stockwood.  5th edition.

This is an excellent book that gives you an overall view to litigation.

*Rosie H. McConnell. A Guide to Collections Procedures in Ontario.

This includes examples of legal documents, such as notice of motions, bill of costs, facta, etc. This book is available at the Toronto Reference Library.

*Laurence  M. Olivo, Mary Ann Kelly.  <em>Civil Litigation</em>. Emond Montgomery Publications.

Excellent book that discusses the various steps, plus examples of what completed court forms actually look like.

*JoAnn Kurtz. Family Law: Practice and Procedure, Vol.1 and 2.  Emond Montgomery Publications.

This is a practical guide that includes a basic introduction to family law, and examples of completed forms.  

*James C. Morton et al. Procedural Strategies for Litigators. 2nd Edition. Lexis Nexis.

In case you wonder how you might want to handle opposing party’s tactics, this book offers some tips and litigation strategy.

*Ira Nishisato,  Ontario Litigator’s Pocket Reference.

This is a  handy reference guide for litigators.

*Donald Ferguson, Ontario Court Room Procedures

This is a very detailed and comprehensive book on court procedure. If you have an upcoming hearing, perhaps a look through this book would help calm your fears. (Better yet, attend a few motions or trials.  They’re usually open to the public.)



Case Law For Self-Represented Litigants

The following is a list of cases which are of particular interest to self-represented litigants. This list should be taken as general information only.  The reader should always be cautious in applying these cases to their own case. For legal advice on how to apply case law to your own situation, please consult a lawyer or paralegal.

(A) Lawsuits that are dismissed due to Pleadings being incorrectly drafted

1. Deep v. Ontario, 2004 CanLII 14527 (ON SC)

In this case, the self-represented plaintiff’s statement of claim is dismissed entirely.

Key points:

(a) deficiencies in the plaintiff’s pleadings:

-the need to plead material facts to support allegations

-claims that have no recognizable cause of action (para. 50-51)

-allegations that state legal conclusions but are unsupported by facts (para. 64-66, 70-74)

(b) claims dismissed due to expiry of limitation period.

(c) claims dismissed due to the fact that have been the subject of previous lawsuits and is being relitigated (principle of res judicata)

2. Bilich v. Toronto Police Services Board, 2013 ONSC 1445 (CanLII)

This is an action by a self-represented person against the Toronto Police Services Board (and others). The self-represented plaintiff sues the defendant for false arrest, libel, negligent investigation and others. The Statement of claim is struck, some without leave to amend. 

Key points:

-failure to plead facts necessary to support allegations (para. 102)

-claims that are irrelevant, argumentative are scandalous and should be struck (para. 89)

-claims that plead evidence and inserted for the purpose for being inflammatory are stuck (para. 92)

(B) Costs for Self-Represented Litigants

1. Cassidy v. Cassidy, 2011 ONSC 791 (CanLII),

This is a Costs Endorsement. The self-represented party was successful in a number of motions in this proceeding. She was therefore entitled to a costs award. In this decision, she was awarded $3350.00 in costs. The various principles to be considered in awarding costs to a self-represented party are enumerated and explained. In particular: 

   [13]      To read the second principle as requiring evidence that a self-represented litigant must actually prove lost opportunities for remuneration in order to recover costs is to disqualify litigants who are homemakers, retirees, students, unemployed, unemployable, and disabled but not a party under a disability.  To apply the second principle in the way suggested is to deprive courts of the tool that Justice Sharpe stated the court should have. 

[14]      Moreover, it would be unproductive for a judge or master to have to decide a costs claim by a self-represented litigant matter as if it were a claim for damages for lost income.  The true point is that a self-represented litigant can only expect to recover costs if he or she does work that a lawyer would do.  Put somewhat differently, if the self-represented litigant demonstrates that he or she did the work ordinarily done by a lawyer, then they will have justified receiving an award of costs.

Therefore, in this case, the judge allowed the self-represented plaintiff “costs for the time she spent in court arguing her case, at the hourly rate that would reasonably be charged by a lawyer for this work, while deducting the same amount of time at the hourly rate she would have earned elsewhere and which she would have lost in any event by attending court as a litigant.” (para. 52)

2. Kirby v. Kirby, 2019 ONSC 232 (CanLII),

The self-represented litigant was ordered to pay the opposing party $150,000 in costs. One of the factors considered was the unreasonableness of the litigant. This costs decision should be read in conjunction to the trial decision, Kirby v. Kirby, 2018 ONSC 6958 (CanLII), This decision provides some insight as to how litigants (represented or not) should conduct themselves in a proceeding.

3. Green v. Whyte, 2019 ONSC 7133 (CanLII), <

In this case, both parties were self-represented. The court discusses “bad faith” (para.12-19), as well as issues of misrepresentation and delays in disclosure (para. 14). The reasons also include a list of previous case law and rules relevant to costs for self-represented litigants (paras. 20-26). Application of the law (paras. 27-36) resulted in one party being awarded costs of approximately $33,000.

Still confused about how the law works?

Check out our Private Legal Coaching page! We have lawyers offering legal advice coaching, or legal information only tutorials. Email Heather Hui-Litwin at [email protected].