This blog will help answer some questions asked by clients when they meet with one of our family law lawyers who have been scheduled to attend a court appearance referred to as a Conference. The issues addressed within this blog include:
There are many misconceptions of the court process when clients meet with one of our lawyers for the first time. Many persons believe that after the service and filing of an Application and an Answer, the Court will determine the issues in dispute on a final basis when the parties attend Court for the first time before a Judge.
This, however, is a very inaccurate picture of the court process which is composed of multiple court appearances. If parties are expecting that a trial will be necessary to resolve the issues in dispute, they can expect to attend, at least, three Conferences prior to the commencement of their trial. Given the significant backlog, parties can expect to be in the litigation process for far greater than one year after the filing of their pleadings (i.e. Application or Answer).
A Conference in family law is a formal court appearance before a judge where the issues are canvassed and procedural Orders can be made. With very few exceptions, no substantive Orders can be made at a Conference (i.e. orders pertaining to parenting time, decision-making responsibility, property division, spousal support, etc.) unless such Orders are on consent (i.e. both parties agree to the terms being Ordered). To that end, a Conference differs substantially from a Motion in family law as a judge can make Orders on substantive issues at a Motion.
Parties who are unable to settle their matter throughout the litigation process will attend the following conferences:
Previously, parties could expect to attend multiple Case Conferences or Settlement Conferences which prolonged the duration of the litigation process. To that end, recent Practice Directions of the Superior Court of Ontario have specified that parties will generally only attend one of each “type” of Conference in an effort to progress matters more efficiently towards a final resolution.
It is also important to keep in mind the following:
Prior to attending a Conference, parties must serve and file, at least, the following materials:
In addition to the above, each party has an obligation to confirm their attendance at the Conference by submitting a Confirmation of Conference (Form 17F) not later than 2 p.m. three business days before the Conference date.
According to the Family Law Rules, the party who scheduled the Conference must serve and file their documents for the conference not later than six days before the date of the scheduled conference. The other party must serve and file their material not later than four days before the Conference.
As noted above, Courts can make procedural Orders at a Conference but will not make substantive Orders unless both parties agree to the Orders being made. Orders that may be made by a Court at a Conference include, but are not limited to:
If a Conference has been scheduled in your family law, reach out to Morrison Williams to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers to: