You're Going To Ontario Family Court... What Now? - Part 3 of 5
Part Three in the Series of 5
Last week we outlined the stages of a family court proceeding. Now let's look at the purposes of each of the conferences.
Each conference has a distinct purpose. These are outlined in the Family Law Rules which govern how a court file proceeds in Ontario.
The first conference is the case conference. The purposes of a case conference include;
- Exploring the possibility of settling the case.
This is only possible if the documentation and information needed to have a meaningful discussion has been exchanged.
Make sure your lawyer has all of your documentation well ahead of the conference and has asked the other side for exactly what he or she is looking for. That gives each side time to review all of the material so that you are in a position to go into your case conference well prepared to have a grasp of what needs to be done to move the case forward and perhaps commence settlement discussions.
- Identifying the issues that are in dispute and those that are not in dispute.
Your lawyer and the other lawyer should communicate before the case conference brief is due in order to discuss whether there are any issues that in fact agreed to. Your case conference brief is a document for the judge that outlines background information, the issues in your case, the important facts in your case, your proposal for settlement and certain other procedural information.
- Exploring ways to resolve the issues that are in dispute.
Again, this is likely only possible if information and documentation have been exchanged and counsel speak with each other meaningfully.
- Identifying any issue relating to any expert evidence or reports on which the parties intend to rely at trial.
There may be a pension report, business valuation, income assessment, or medical reports for example that fall into this category. If these reports are available at the case conference, there may be more meaningful settlement discussions or the issues in questions can possibly be narrowed.
- Noting admissions that may simplify the case.
Sometimes counsel exchange "requests to admit" which require the other side to either admit or dispute certain facts or the authenticity of certain documents. If certain facts or certain documents are key to the case, it may be helpful to use the request to admit to determine the other party's position on the fact or document.
- Setting the date for the next step in the case.
This is most commonly the settlement conference. It is important to set the date for next step right at the conference in order to ensure that the matter is moved along, unless there are specific reasons not to. Parties are usually free to seek a Court date to seek specific temporary orders or a motion if some issues that cannot wait until trial are unresolved.
- Setting a specific timetable for the steps to be taken in the case before it comes to trial.
Again, it is important to ensure that the matter is moved along. The timetable may include the date by which certain documents need to be exchanged, the date for questioning if that is going to happen, or the date by which certain motions must be brought if there are in the meantime orders needed.
- Organizing a settlement conference or holding one if appropriate.
i) 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.
Once again, doing this helps move the matter along.
Check back for information on the purposes of a settlement conference.