The first time you and your partner speak with a judge about your case is at a case conference. At a case conference, you and your partner (and your lawyers if you have them) meet with a judge to discuss and try and agree on your issues.
The goal of a case conference is to get you and your partner to agree on some or all of your issues without going to a motion or a trial.
Rule 17: Conferences tells you what you need to do to prepare for your case conference and what happens at one.
Your partner has to serve you with the following documents at least 6 days before your case conference:
If your partner’s financial statement is more than 30 days old at the time of your conference, you will also be served with one of the following documents:
- Form 13: Financial Statement or Form 13.1: Financial Statement, if there have been major changes to their financial situation.
- Form 14A: Affidavit, if there is no change or only minor changes to the last financial statement they filed. Your partner has to include details of these changes on the form.
Starting March 2021, you and your partner must consider using an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or family dispute resolution process to resolve your issues out of court if it’s suitable. It might not be an option in situations where:
- a person is afraid of their partner because there’s a history of family violence
- there are serious mental health or drug abuse issues
ADR is voluntary. So, even though you must think about trying it, you can't be forced to use it.
ADR 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 family 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
Because you have already discussed your issues and shared financial statements, you can skip the case conference steps of the family court process. You can go to a combined case and settlement conference where the focus is on trying to settle the issues you don't agree on. You will need to fill out the forms required for a settlement conference.
If the judge has not already combined the conferences, you or your partner can ask for this by bringing a Form 14B: Motion.
Fill out your forms
You also have to fill out your own Form 17A: Case Conference Brief. In it you:
- give some information about your family
- give details about your financial situation
- list the issues you and your partner agree on
- list the issues you and your partner don’t agree on
- list the issues you want to talk about at the conference and include facts you think the judge needs to know
- include your ideas on how you and your partner can agree on the issues
If there are procedural issues, you list them for the judge in your case conference brief. For example, the judge can set a schedule or timetable for the next steps before trial and set dates by when you and your partner have to share documents.
You have to give the court updated financial statements. See Update your financial statements below to find out what you have to do.
Make copies of your completed documents for you and your partner.
Serve and file your forms
You must serve your partner with a copy of your documents at least 4 days before the date of your case conference. Serve your documents below explains how to do this.
See Count time below to understand how to calculate days or time correctly. This is important because court staff may not accept your documents if you haven’t followed the rules.
After you serve your partner, you must file your documents and Form 6B: Affidavit of Service with the court. This means they’re added to your court file. You must do this at least 4 days before the conference date.
You can file your forms and documents with the court online or in person. File your court forms and documents below explains how to do this.
Your case conference brief is added to your court file and not to the continuing record. It goes in your court file so the judge can read it before your conference. It's given back to you after your case conference is over. This is because discussions at a case conference are private and can't be shared with another judge.
Confirm your court date
You have to tell the court that you will be at your case conference. Confirm your court date below explains how to do this.
If you need an interpreter or any special arrangement because of a disability, see Ask for a special arrangement below.