Litigation may be necessary if spouses are unable to resolve the issues in dispute through other means. The case would proceed to court and a judge would be asked to decide on one or more of the unresolved issues.
In Ontario there are a number of steps that need to be taken before a judge can make a final decision. Many of these steps are designed to encourage spouses to try and settle some or all of the outstanding issues.
You should not expect to have an immediate court appearance. Each court appearance or conference with a judge must be scheduled. You may have to wait a number of weeks to get this date, depending on how many other cases are being heard at that particular court, unless your case is considered urgent.
CASE CONFERENCE AND SETTLEMENT CONFERENCE
In almost all cases, the court will schedule what is referred to as a Case Conference or a Settlement Conference. These conferences provide opportunities for the spouses and the lawyers to meet with a judge to discuss the issues in the case. Depending upon which courthouse the case is heard, the Case Conference or Settlement Conference can be held in a courtroom or in a less formal space, like a conference room or the judge’s office.
At a Case Conference or Settlement Conference a judge will try to help resolve issues in your case or at least narrow them down. The purposes of a case conference include:
The judge at the Conference will make suggestions and offer opinions about what they think will happen if you are not able to settle the case and have to go to trial. While the opinion of a judge at a Case Conference or Settlement Conference is not binding on either spouse, it may help the spouses to reach an agreement on all or some of the issues through negotiation. A judge can also order that spouses provide specific information to one another that may be necessary to assist them in resolving their dispute. At least one Conference must be held, but there may be more if the judge orders it or if either spouse requests additional Conferences.
TRIAL MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
Trial Management Conferences are only required where a trial is required. These Conferences ensure that you are ready to proceed with your case once a trial date is set.
A motion is a court procedure that is used to obtain certain types of orders from a judge. When you go to court for a motion, you are asking a judge to make the decision about how to resolve the issues between you and your spouse. In most cases a spouse can only bring a motion after a Case Conference has been held. However, there are certain exceptions when one may be permitted to bring a motion before a Case Conference. A motion is used to ask a judge to make an order to resolve an issue on a temporary basis or to change an order that has already been made. The temporary order will stay in effect until the court has time to hear your case in full. For example, a spouse may require a motion to obtain an order for child support on a temporary basis until the issue can be fully and finally resolved. The number of motions required is different for each case. There may be no motions required or in some cases multiple motions may be necessary.
While most family law cases are resolved before ever reaching the trial stage, should the issues in dispute not be resolved through negotiation and with the assistance of a judge at the Conference(s), then a trial is held. A trial is the last step in a court proceeding. At a trial, a judge will make final orders which resolve all those issues which remain outstanding. The time to reach this stage and the length of the trial itself will vary depending on the complexity of the case.
When litigation is necessary, we always strive to reach fair and reasonable solutions for our clients, representing their interests strongly and passionately.