Every family law matter that goes to court starts with a Case Conference. In some matters, the parties start with a Rule 39 (First Court Date) which sets out the date for the Case Conference.
The Case Conference is a very important step in a family law matter because it is the first opportunity to present the case to the court and obtain their views. It also is an opportunity to see strengths and weaknesses in a case and how to advance with it.
Based on the type of originating process that has been commenced in court, sometimes Case Conferences are before a Judge and sometimes they are below a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO). Please see the below chart for the type of application and who your Case Conference will before:
|Type of Application||Purpose||Judge or DRO|
|APPLICATION||Initial Application for family law matter||Judge|
|MOTION TO CHANGE||Court Application for the purpose of changing or varying an existing Order or Agreement||DRO|
Dispute Resolution Officers are senior family lawyers who have a wealth of knowledge and years of experience in family law practice to assist with moving the case along, settlement and negotiations. They act as a neutral third party and assist with resolving matters in certain instances before they are heard in front of a Judge for another Conference or a Motion.
DRO’s are only available in certain family courts including Toronto, Brampton, Milton, Newmarket, Barrie, Hamilton, and Oshawa.
Both a DRO and a Judge can assist the parties in identifying and attempting to resolve their issues, ensuring all relevant documents have been disclosed, and, if the parties are able to agree on resolution to some issues, assisting them in obtaining a consent order from the court
Having a Case Conference before a Judge can have similar benefits of a DRO Conference and sometimes a more enhanced one given that you receive the views and opinions from a Judge for the rest of your case. Sometimes, the Judge you are before becomes your Case Management Judge and can assist you in a resolution of issues sooner.
The main difference between a DRO Case Conference and a Judge Case Conference are the powers of the court. A DRO cannot make orders regarding your case or any costs but a Judge can make certain orders such as procedural ones, ordering steps in a case, costs, etc.
At AP Lawyers, our family lawyers regularly appear before DROs and Judges in both the Ontario Court of Justice and Superior Court of Justice for family law matters. We can assist you in identifying how to maximize on the type of Conference that is scheduled for your matter.