Which court should I start my case in?
If claims will be made for custody of or access to children, you should start the case in the municipality where the children ordinarily live. Otherwise, it can be started in the municipality where either party lives.
If there is both an Ontario Court of Justice and Superior Court of Justice in the municipality, you must start your case in the court that can decide your issues. Many family law cases can be started in the Ontario Court of Justice. However, if claims are being made about property (including a matrimonial home) or divorce, the case must be started in the Superior Court of Justice.
I have been served with an application, what do I need to do?
If you don’t agree with claims in the application or if you want to make a claim of your own, you have up to 30 days to respond (or 60 days if the application is served outside of Canada or the United States). The document that you prepare in response to an application is called an answer. If you do not file an answer, the applicant can ask the court for an order, based on the claims in the application, without hearing from you and you are not entitled to participate in the case any further.
What steps are involved in the court process?
The Family Law Rules set out the steps in the family court process. In most cases, the parties meet with a judge at least once at the beginning of the process to discuss the issues in dispute and how they can be resolved, and the steps that should be taken for the case to proceed (for example ensuring that financial information has been exchanged). This meeting is called a case conference.
Following the case conference, either party may bring a motion for a temporary order (for example for exclusive possession of a matrimonial home, custody of children or support). At a motion, a judge reviews the affidavit evidence from both parties and decides whether to make the order that has been requested.
If the case has not been settled, a case conference is usually followed by a settlement conference, which focuses on settling or narrowing the issues in dispute. The judge at a settlement conference may also be able to provide his or her view of how the case might be decided if it goes to trial.
If the parties cannot settle the case after one or more conferences have been held, a trial may be necessary. A trial management conference may be held in advance of a trial in order to determine how the trial will proceed.
Before each court attendance, both parties must serve the other party and file certain documents with the court. Many of these steps may be avoided if the parties agree to the outcome of the case. If an agreement is reached on a day when you are not in court, you can prepare and file Form 14B: Motion Form to request an order with the terms you have agreed to. This is called an order on consent.
How quickly will my case be resolved?
The number of times parties will have to go to court and the length of time that it takes to resolve a case will depend on a number of factors, including how complicated the case is and whether the parties can agree on all or some of the issues.
I need to get a court order right away. What should I do?
Usually, you must attend a case conference before you can bring a motion to ask the court for a temporary order. However, if your situation is urgent, you can ask the court to hear your motion before a case conference has been held. If you are considering bringing an urgent motion, you should review Rule 14(4) of the Family Law Rules and the Guide to Family Procedures for the court where your case is being heard.
You should also call the court where you will be filing your motion to see whether you will be given a time to attend court to have the motion heard or whether the documents will be reviewed by the court without you being present.
I can’t attend a court date that has already been arranged. What should I do?
You should tell your lawyer or every other party as soon as possible that you will need to postpone the court date. This is referred to as an adjournment. To ask for an adjournment before your court date, you should serve every other party with Form 14B: Motion Form and file it with the court. On the motion form, you can indicate whether the other parties have agreed to adjourn the court date. If the other parties have not agreed, you or your representative will still have to go to court on the day that has been scheduled to explain why you need an adjournment. If you are asking for an adjournment on an emergency basis, contact the court office as soon as possible so that they can notify the judge of your request.
If I’m not happy with a court decision, what can I do?
If you believe that the court made the wrong decision, you can file an appeal to request that the order be changed or that a new hearing be held. If you are considering an appeal, you should speak to a lawyer right away about whether it is likely to be successful and the deadline for starting an appeal.
**source: Ministry of Attorney-General