Educational Resources

Navigating Family Law Conferences

Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

In the intricate landscape of family law, conferences play a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of a case. Let’s try to demystify the essence of family law conferences, grounded in Rule 17 of the Family Law Rules. These conferences, including case conferences, settlement conferences, and trial management conferences, serve as a cornerstone in the resolution process.

The Essence of Family Law Conferences

Family law conferences are collaborative sessions where judges, parties, and their attorneys (if present) converge to dissect and deliberate on the case. The primary objectives of these conferences are:

  • Identifying Common Ground: Pinpointing issues where parties agree, setting a foundation for potential resolutions.
  • Addressing Disputes: Spotlighting unresolved issues and assessing the prospects of settling these disputes.
  • Strategizing Forward Movement: Devising a roadmap for how the case should advance, optimizing the chances of a favorable outcome.

Gia Williams, Associate Lawyer

These conferences are not merely procedural checkpoints but opportunities to resolve disputes, potentially saving significant time and costs. Effective preparation and transparent financial disclosure are key to leveraging these opportunities to their fullest potential.

Pre-Conference Negotiations and Documentation

It’s imperative that parties engage in negotiations prior to the conference, ensuring that the session focuses on unresolved matters. Specific forms and documentation must be meticulously prepared and exchanged, adhering to the stipulated guidelines.

Scheduling and Document Preparation

For cases not automatically assigned a first court date, parties must proactively schedule a case conference. Once you obtain a court date you will need to ensure proper service and filing of the Form 17: Conference Notice are crucial steps. A Form 6B: Affidavit of Service, validated by a lawyer or commissioner of oaths, provides proof of document receipt.

At the case conference, the exchange of a comprehensive yet concise Form 17A: Case Conference Brief is essential. This document, capped at 8 pages, should encapsulate the crux of the matter without overwhelming details. Judges appreciate brevity and relevance, focusing on pivotal information over voluminous narratives (check your local Practice Directions to confirm exact page limits in your jurisdiction).

Emphasizing Financial and Parental Responsibility

Updating financial statements and parenting affidavits before the conference is not just a procedural formality but a testament to the party’s commitment to transparency and resolution. These updates reflect the dynamic nature of family law cases and ensure that discussions are based on the most current information.

Family law conferences are more than mere formalities; they are pivotal stages in the resolution of family law disputes. Approach these conferences with meticulous preparation, a collaborative mindset, and a commitment to resolution. With the right approach, these conferences can pave the way to a more amicable and efficient resolution of family law matters.

*this article was based, in part, on A Guide to Process for Family Cases at the Superior Court of Justice Ontario Superior Court of Justice

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.