Settlement conferences are held either in a courtroom or a conference room at the courthouse. If you and your partner don’t have lawyers, it’s likely to be in a courtroom. You can ask court staff to help you find out where you have to go.
At your settlement conference
At your settlement conference, you and your partner (and your lawyers if you have them) meet with a judge to discuss your issues. Every conference is a chance for you to come closer to agreeing on your issues with your partner.
The goals of a settlement conference are to:
- discuss ways to resolve the issues
- hear the judge’s opinion on how the court may decide the issues
- set the next steps needed to resolve the issues
The main difference between a case conference and a settlement conference is the role of the judge. The judge plays a more active role at a settlement conference in trying to get you and your partner to agree on your issues.
At a settlement conference, the judge wants to hear about any attempts that you and your partner have made at settling your issues. They are also more likely to give you an opinion, or let you know what they think, about your issues.
If you and your partner agree on any issue during your settlement conference, the judge can make an order based on your agreement. Usually you write your agreement out in a consent agreement or minutes of settlement and the judge will make it into a consent order. The Step Bring a regular motion has information on how to make a consent order.
The judge at your settlement conference usually doesn't decide on issues that you and your partner can't agree on.
At the end of your settlement conference, the judge returns your settlement conference brief to you. It doesn’t remain in your court file once the conference is over. This is because the discussions at a settlement conference are private and can’t be shared with another judge or used as evidence in a motion or trial.
Your next conference
If you and your partner are moving closer to settling your family law issues, you may have more than one settlement conference.
If you’re going to another settlement conference, you have to prepare the same documents you prepared for this one, but they will have to be updated. You also have to follow the same steps like serving your documents, adding them to your court file, and confirming your court date.
But, if it looks like you and your partner will not resolve your issues, the judge usually sets a date for a trial management conference.
If your case is at the Superior Court of Justice or the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice, you have to fill out Part 1 and Part 2 of a Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form at the end of your final settlement conference. In it, you list out the issues that need to be resolved at trial, the witnesses you plan to call, and how much time you think your trial will take. The form is reviewed and signed by the judge.
If you can’t complete the forms right away, the judge may schedule a time for you to come back to the court.
You may not get a trial date until these forms are completed and signed by the judge.
If your case is at the Ontario Court of Justice, you will usually have the same judge for all of your conferences, and a new judge if your case goes to trial.
If your case is at the Superior Court of Justice, you do not have the same judge for all of your conferences. But, you or your partner can ask to have the same judge if you wish.