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Case Conferences in Ontario Family Court

Angela Princewill

November 30, 2015

Case Conferences

A Case Conference, is an important part of the Family Law Court process. Pursuant to Rule 17 of the Family Law Rules, a Case Conference is a meeting, usually chaired by a judge, with the Applicant, Respondent and their lawyers, if any. If anyone else, such as Children’s Aid Society (CAS), Family Responsibility (FRO) or a Children’s Lawyer is directly involved, they will also be a part of the Case Conference.  A judge chooses to meet only with the lawyers or with the lawyers and their clients to discuss the issues and how the case will go forward.

Goals of a Case Conference

Case Conferences take place early in a Family Law case for a chance explore settlement, identify which issues are in dispute, determine the strengths and weaknesses of each parties’ position, explore ways to resolve disputed issues (in and outside of court) and set up a date for the next steps involved in the matter such as a Settlement Conference.

A judge may encourage the parties’ to speak frankly about their positions so that he or she may make procedural orders so that the case proceeds more efficiently. Usually there are some issues that are left unresolved or some issues are determined on a temporary or final basis by virtue of the judge’s Endorsement.

If the parties reach an agreement on an issue, the judge may ask the lawyers to write it down and have each party sign it. If desired, this can be turned into a court order.

Do I need a Case Conference?

A Case Conference is a crucial step in a Family Law proceeding and is required if any party wants the court to make a temporary order about any of the issues, hear a motion to change a final order or agreement and proceed further with the matter.

There are exceptions to bringing a motion before a Case Conference based on urgency or hardship but a Case Conference is usually held before any notice of motion or hearing. Exceptions are listed in Rule 14(6) of the Family Law Rules.

Should you choose to skip a Case Conference and the judge determines that your matter is not urgent, you may be ordered to pay court costs for the other party. These costs could include all or part of the other party’s lawyer fees.

Documents required for a Case Conference

Case Conference Brief
Case Conference Brief

Each party must serve and file their Case Conference Brief (Form 17A) on the other party. The party that asked for the Case Conference has to serve and file their Brief at least 7 days before the scheduled conference. The other party has 4 days to serve and file their Brief before the conference date. If neither party requested a Case Conference, the Applicant has 7 days to serve and file and the Respondent has 4 days to serve and file before the conference date.

If child or spousal support is an issue in the case, the parties’ must also serve and file a Financial Statement Form (Form 13 or Form 13.1) or an Affidavit updating the existing Financial Statement.

It is important to have these documents served and filed within the specified time limits before the scheduled conference date because the other party, and the judge, need to review the material.

Can the judge make orders at the Case Conference?

In limited circumstances, the judge can make an order regarding the issues of the matter. The judge usually makes procedural orders which include disclosure of documents, questioning of a party or setting time lines. However, should there be an undisputed issue, such as child support based on the payer’s income and Child Support Guidelines, this can be ordered as well.

How can we help?

At A. Princewill Law Firm, we have the expertise to successfully ensure your best interests are represented before the court. In family law cases, it is very important and beneficial to get the assistance of a lawyer because as a party to the proceeding, this is very emotional and stressful. It is common to miss a crucial step in the process or not know what the next steps are which can disrupt your position on the issues.

We have the expertise, experience and knowledge to outline your rights and obligations for you. We will always support your best interests and our understanding of these processes makes it easier for us to represent everything you want and interests that you may not even be aware of. We will successfully guide you and walk you through the best approach for you and your situation. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your Family Law matter today.

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