CASE CONFERENCES – USUALLY YOUR FIRST STEP IN FRONT OF A JUDGE

Written by Allison McAlpine

After the Pleadings Stage and First Appearance (and any urgent motions) a Case Conference is held. This article provides information relating to Case Conferences in the Barrie, Ontario Family Court and is not meant to apply to other jurisdictions.

A Case Conference is held in front of a Family Court Judge. They are at 930am and there are a number of other cases on for 930am.  You will not likely be reached at 930am.  Be prepared to be at Court all day.

Purposes of a Case Conference

Rule 17(4) of the Family Law Rules outlines the purposes of a case conference as follows:

  1. Exploring the chances of settling the case;
  2. Identifying the issues that are in dispute and those that are not in dispute;
  3. Exploring ways to resolve the issues that are in dispute;
  4. Ensuring disclosure of the relevant evidence;
  5. Identifying any issues relating to any expert evidence or reports on which the parties intend to rely at trial;
  6. Noting any admissions that may simplify the case;
  7. Setting the date for the next step in the case;
  8. Setting a specific timetable for the steps to be taken in the case before it comes to trial;
  9. Organizing a settlement conference, or holding one if appropriate; and
  10. Giving directions with respect to any intended motion, including the preparation of a specific timetable for the exchange of material for the motion and ordering the filing of summaries of argument if appropriate.

Basically, it is an opportunity for the parties to sit down with a Judge and explain the issues in dispute, get feedback from the Judge on the issues, and to move the matter forward. A Judge at a case conference can make an order for document disclosure and this is routinely done.  Any disclosure you are requesting from the other party which has not been produced should be put into an order at the case conference with a deadline for the disclosure to be produced (e.g., income tax returns, bank statements, valuations, etc.).

Orders That Can Be Made

If notice has been given (which can be done in the case conference brief), a Judge can make the following orders at the Conference:

  1. Orders relating to the designation of beneficiaries under a policy of life insurance, RRSP, trust, pension, etc.;
  2. An order preserving assets;
  3. An order prohibiting the concealment or destruction of property or documents;
  4. An order requiring an accounting of funds;
  5. An order preserving the health and medical insurance coverage for one of the parties and the children; and
  6. An order for child and spousal support or an order for payment towards an asset (e.g., mortgage payments).

A Case Conference Brief must be served on the other party and filed at the Court: 6 business days for the party requesting the conference (usually the Applicant) and 4 business days for the other party.  In the Barrie, Ontario Family Court, Briefs should be limited to 6 pages in length.  They should also not contain adversarial language, but stick to the facts of the case and promote a “climate for settlement.”   Lengthy and/or unduly adversarial briefs may not be read, costs may be awarded or the case may be put at the bottom of the list for the day.

Case Conference Briefs (Form 17A) can be found here: http://ontariocourtforms.on.ca/en/family-law-rules-forms/.  Also needed are 17F Confirmation forms which can be found at the link as well.  The 17F confirmation form must be filed at the Court (via fax or in person) by 2pm at least 3 business days prior to the Conference.  You should outline what the anticipated issues are, what documents the Judge should read, and the estimated time limit.  Further, it is expected that parties consult with one another prior to preparing the 17F confirmation forms if reasonably possible.

At the end of the Conference, you should come out of it with at least the following:

  1. An order for outstanding disclosure;
  2. Feedback from the Judge on the issues in dispute;
  3. Minutes of Settlement and an endorsement/order for any issues that could be agreed upon;
  4. Child and/or spousal support on a temporary basis if notice was given and the Judge at the Conference can reasonably make such an order without the necessity of a motion.

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