Specializing in Divorce and
Separation in Ontario, Canada
Law Court Proceedings in Ontario
Ontario, there are three different levels of courts which deal with family
The court you and your partner attend will depend on the
matters you require to be settled by a judge.
you have decided to attend court, there are a certain set of procedures
you will be required to follow.
The procedural rules
used for all family cases in all the above-mentioned courts are called
the Family Law Rules. The Family Law Rules were designed
to promote the early resolution of cases, rather than encouraging
parties to proceed to trial, a step that is costly for both the courts
and the parties. You may access the Family Law Rules at:
you do not have familiarity with the Family Law Rules rules,
you may contact one of the court staff at the court counter or at the
Family Law Information Centres for assistance. In the alternative,
you may visit the following website: www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca for
- A family law matter is started
through the issuing of an Application at
a court. For assistance with drafting your Application (a very
important and crucial step in family law matters, it is recommended
that you contact a lawyer.
an Application must be issued in the jurisdiction where one
of the parties live, or if custody/access is an issue, the matter
must be started in the jurisdiction where the children reside.
Please note that the court staff must refuse your Application if
you are in the wrong court. To save time, complete this research
before attempting to file your Application.
- The Application must
then be served on the Respondent. If you have
a negative relationship with this person and do not wish to
have direct contact (or cannot) with them, you can contact
and hire a process server to provide you with this service.
- Once the Application has been served, the “Respondent” (the
person served with an Application) then has an opportunity to review
the Application and must file an Answer and Financial
Statement (if support or property issues are involved) within
a timeframe of 30 days if they reside in Canada (a period which is increased
to 60 days if the Respondent resides outside of Canada).
- The first court
date, a First Appearance will be set out on
the Application if the matter is proceeding at the Ontario
Court of Justice or the Family Court of the Superior Court of Justice.
If, on the other hand the matter is proceeding at the Superior Court
of Justice, a First Appearance is not usually held and the matter will
most often be scheduled for a Case Conference. You will receive a Case
Conference Notice if this is the case.
A First Appearance takes
place before a clerk of the court and is an informal appearance designed
to ensure that all relevant documents have been filed. An example of
this, is the court ensuring that a financial statement has been filed
if support or property issues are involved. This is a key piece of
disclosure which your lawyer will assist you with drafting.
is in order, the clerk will schedule your second court date, a Case
- A Case Conference, according to the Family
Law Rules, takes place before a judge and is designed to explore
your and the other parties chances of settling/resolving the case.
As such, the judge is likely to express his/her view of the likely
outcome of the case in an effort to encourage settlement.
also ensures that both parties exchange all relevant information needed
to achieve a fair result by ordering disclosure to be made by a certain
date, if required. At a Case Conference, a judge can make a temporary
or final order (if notice has been given), give procedural directions,
set a date for a motion, refer the parties to mediation, and so on.
- Once a Case Conference has taken place, if the judge
deems it necessary, he/she can either schedule another case conference or a Settlement
or Trial Management Conference. As with the Case Conference,
theses conferences all take place before a judge and their purpose
is similar to that of a Case Conference – to encourage the parties
to attempt to settle the matter if possible, and to ascertain the issues
that cannot be settled and should be set for trial. The judge can make
temporary orders at these stages, as with the Case Conference. These
orders relate to the establishing of timeframes, disclosure, and the
narrowing of issues to plan for trial. As such, at a trial management
conference, the judge will ask the parties to advise the court of how
many witnesses they plan to call and how long their evidence will take.
The judge will then work towards scheduling a trial date.
- Motions :
A motion is a court procedure used by one of the parties a after the
Case Conference has been held, asking the judge to decide a substantive
issue (custody, access schedule, etc) on a temporary basis, if you
have not been able to arrive at a settlement at your Case Conference.
This order will stay in effect until the court has the time to hear
your case in full, at a trial.
A motion can take place any time after
your first Case Conference has been held, but not before,
unless it is urgent, an emergency or procedural relief being sought.
An example of an emergency would be seeking a restraining order
by way of motion against your partner (if violence is an issue)
prior to a Case Conference being held if you fear that your partner
may harm you or the children without this protection.
- Trial :
The final step in your court matter is a trial (however, the
majority of family law cases – approximately 97% will
be resolved prior to this stage). The judge will decide any outstanding
issue that have not been resolved at the conferences for you, on a final
At the trial, both parties will have an opportunity to
present the evidence in support of their position. Witnesses testify
before the judge, and documentary evidence is presented. Note that the
judge who managed your case to this point cannot hear your trial.
Please visit our Family
Law Court Proceedings Frequently
Asked Questions section for further information
or contact us.