In the Ontario court process, the Family Law Rules require that you attend various conferences while navigating through the court system. This includes (at least): one case conference, one settlement conference and one trial management conference.
Each of these conferences consists of an informal meeting before a judge aimed at determining whether or not the issues can be narrowed or settled before any further litigation occurs. Conferences are mandatory. They must be attended in sequential order before any further steps can be taken.
At a conference, a judge can make 2 types of orders:
- A procedural order (regardless of whether or not the parties consent to it)
- A substantive order (but only if the parties consent to it.)
For clarity, below is the difference between the 2 types of orders:
- A procedural order is an order that relates to process for the purposes of moving the case forward. This would include an order for the exchange of disclosure, an order for the timing of exchange of motion materials, an order for the attendance at questioning etc.
- A substantive order is an order that makes a finding relating to a legal issues in the case. This includes orders relating to the amount of child support or spousal support, an order relating the sale of property, and orders relating to custody and access.
Prior to each conference, a conference brief needs to be served on the opposing side and filed with the Court. These briefs provide a synopsis of the legal issues, up-to-date information about what is happening in the case, and an outline of what claims are being requested by each party.
It is important to speak with a family law lawyer about how to efficiently utilize these mandated conferences to your advantage in your case.