You have a first court date if your case is at the:
- Ontario Court of Justice
- Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice, unless you're also asking for a divorce or to divide property
Cases at the Superior Court of Justice don't have a first court date.
Your first court date is the date the court clerk wrote on the front page of your Form 8: Application when your documents were issued. If you're not sure which court to go to, contact the family court written on the top of your court forms.
The first court date is called an administrative appearance. It's not in front of a judge and is usually not even in a courtroom.
The court clerk meets with you and your partner to check that all of your documents are complete and have been properly served.
If your documents are not complete, the court clerk may set another first court date.
If your documents are complete, the court clerk sets a date for your first case conference.
If your partner did not file their Form 10: Answer, the court clerk may send your case to a judge for a decision based on only your documents and evidence.
If your case doesn't have a first court date, you or your partner have to ask the court clerk at the court to schedule a case conference for your case to move forward. The court clerk gives you a date for your case conference and signs Form 17: Conference Notice. You must serve this on your partner.
Mediation can be tried before going to court or any time after a court case is started. Every family court in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services.
From August 1, 2021, if you and your partner have tried mediation, a judge can allow you to move directly to a combined case conference and settlement conference. A judge can only do this when you and your partner have:
- been screened for power imbalances and domestic violence
- shared financial statements
- filed a completed Form 17G: Certificate of Dispute Resolution
- no outstanding motions for temporary orders
And depending on when you tried mediation, you may also be able to skip your first court date or meeting with a Dispute Resolution Officer.
To prepare for a combined conference, fill out the forms required for a settlement conference. If the judge hasn’t already combined the conferences, you or your partner can ask for this by bringing a Form 14B: Motion.
Once your case has started, you or your partner must schedule a trial within 365 days. If your case is not scheduled for trial in that time, the court clerk will send you and your partner a notice giving you 60 days to either:
- file a consent to a judgment or order, or
- schedule a case conference or settlement conference.
If either of you don't do anything after getting this notice, your case may be dismissed.