Effective July 1, 2014, amended May 1, 2016 and December 1, 2017
This Practice Direction applies to family law proceedings in Central East Region, other than Child Protection cases under the Child and Family Services Act. It supersedes all previous Practice Directions concerning family proceedings in Central East Region, which are hereby revoked. All family proceedings throughout Central East Region are conducted in the Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice and are governed by the Family Law Rules. Counsel and parties can generally expect to attend the following court events with a judge prior to trial: one case conference; one settlement conference; one trial scheduling conference; and one trial management conference. In exceptional cases, a judge may schedule additional conferences or combine some of these conferences into one event, as permitted by the Family Law Rules. If a judicial decision is required prior to trial, parties may also schedule a motion as permitted by rules 14(4) to (16).
This Practice Direction explains the filing requirements and scheduling procedures for each of these events to ensure that each attendance is a meaningful appearance. Where there is a conflict between the filing requirements of the Family Law Rules and this Practice Direction, the Practice Direction shall apply. All filing should be done at the Family Court Filing Office for the centre in which the proceedings have been started. All references to the Trial Coordinator refer to the Family Court Trial Coordinator in the same centre. Each Family Court site also has a Family Law Information Centre (FLIC) and Mediation Service. Contact information for these services is available on the Ministry’s website.
Contact information for the various court offices at each site in Central East is included at the end of this Practice Direction. Counsel and parties should also refer to the relevant parts of the Consolidated Provincial Practice Direction (Part 1 in particular). There are also additional resources that may be helpful to family law litigants at the end of this Practice Direction.
Each of the forms that are required by the Family Law Rules are available at the Ontario Court Forms website at: http://www.ontariocourtforms.on.ca/en/family-law-rules-forms/. In addition, the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form for family cases is available on the Superior Court of Justice’s website at: http://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/practice/rules-forms/.
- Part 1: Confirmations
- Part 2: Adjournments
- Part 3: First Appearance
- Part 4: Conferences
- Part 5: Motions
- Part 6 – Trials and Trial Records
- Part 7 – Uncontested Trials
Part 1: Confirmations
- Each party to a conference or motion must file a fully completed Form 14C Confirmation. If the parties consult and agree on the content, they may file one joint 14C. The 14C must be filed no later than 2 p.m. two business days before the date of the motion or conference, except for long motions which must be filed by 2 p.m. seven days before the motion. The 14C may be faxed to the Filing Office for the court in which the event is scheduled.
- Unless the parties do not have counsel and are prohibited by court order or safety issues from communicating with each other, the parties or their counsel should consult with each other in advance of the scheduled court date in order to (i) set a joint agenda of the issues they wish addressed at the conference or motion; (ii) attempt to resolve the issues in dispute; and (iii) determine how much of the scheduled time each of them will require at the court attendance to address those issues. The parties are expected to exchange proposals in advance of filing their Form 14C Confirmations. The 14C should confirm that these discussions have taken place, or set out reasons why not, otherwise the matter may not be heard. Priority will be given to matters for which the 14C Confirmation has been fully and properly completed and reasonable efforts have been made by the parties to consult in advance, as set out above.
- If direct communication is problematic, as only one of the two parties is represented, counsel may communicate with the other party in writing before filing their 14C. Counsel should indicate (i) the issues that must be addressed; (ii) their client’s proposal to resolve the issues; and (iii) how much of the scheduled time he or she requires. The 14C should confirm that this communication has been sent and counsel should bring a copy of the communications to the conference or motion.
- Where Form 14C Confirmations have not been filed, the conference or motion will be crossed off the court’s daily schedule or event list and will not be heard by the court, unless the parties obtain a judge’s order to restore it to the list. Costs may also be ordered against a party who has not filed a properly completed 14C Confirmation.
- Form 14C Confirmations must only list the specific issues that are to be addressed at that event. They should also indicate which materials the judge should review. The 14C Confirmation should not direct the judge to read the entire file or any material that is not necessary for that day. A judge will generally only read the briefs and financial documents for case or settlement conferences. For motions, the 14C Confirmation should provide a clear reference to the specific volume, tab and page numbers of the Continuing Record that need to be read for the event. Normally, this will be the Notice of Motion and affidavits filed by both parties. Failure to provide this information may result in the materials not being reviewed by the judge, the matter being placed at the bottom of the list, or the matter not being heard on that day.
- Form 14C Confirmations must also include a realistic time estimate for the entire motion or conference to be completed in the time that has been booked, including time required by the other party. See paragraphs 39 and 42 below regarding the allocation of time for motions. Parties will be held to the time stated on their Confirmations.
Part 2: Adjournments
- Once a date has been booked, the court expects counsel or parties to be ready to proceed on the scheduled day and time. In most centres, a number of cases will be scheduled at the same time, as the court cannot anticipate who will be delayed waiting to see duty counsel. Every effort will be made to give priority to cases in which the parties have exchanged properly completed material and negotiated in advance, so that they are ready to proceed at their scheduled time. However, counsel or parties should be prepared for the possibility of lengthy wait times, as the court works through the scheduled list. The court’s schedule is posted online at 4:30 p.m. on the day before the scheduled attendance.
- Due to the number of litigants requiring court dates, it is important that scheduled events are not adjourned, unless there is a reason that the parties cannot proceed. If circumstances arise that necessitate an adjournment, it should be requested as soon as possible so that the time can be made available for other matters. Unless otherwise provided in this Practice Direction, up to two administrative adjournments per case may be obtained by contacting the Trial Coordinator no later than 2:00 p.m. two business days before the scheduled event. After two administrative adjournments of any case, the parties must attend personally before the court to request an adjournment, otherwise the proceeding may be dismissed.
- Trial scheduling conferences may not be adjourned without a judge’s order, which must be obtained either by 14B motion, if there have not been two previous administrative adjournments for the case, or by appearing before the court. The adjournment request must set out strong reasons why the parties are not ready to go ahead, along with a proposed timetable to move the case forward.
- Trial management conferences are peremptory on all parties and may not be adjourned without appearing before the court. Trial management conferences will only be adjourned in compelling and unforeseen circumstances, such as illness.
- Unless a judge has ordered otherwise, once a matter has been placed on a trial list, parties and counsel must be ready to proceed on one-half days’ notice at any time during that trial sittings. A trial may not be adjourned without a judge’s order, which can only be obtained by attending personally, and which will only be granted in compelling and unforeseen circumstances, such as illness.
Part 3: First Appearance
- For cases to which Rule 39 applies (fast track matters, which do not involve claims relating to property or divorce), the first court date will be scheduled before a Rule 39 clerk. Parties must attend to ensure their case will be ready for a case conference. However, if both parties have filed all material required by the Rules (Application and Answer; Financial Statements; Certificate of Financial Disclosure; and Form 35.1 Affidavit in support of Custody or Access), they may jointly consent to waive the first appearance date. This may be done by filing a Joint Waiver of the first appearance with the Trial Coordinator who will then schedule a case conference date for the parties.
- The first appearance Clerk can assist the parties by providing information and forms that need to be filed to proceed to a case conference. Duty counsel is available to provide advice to parties who qualify financially. Duty counsel and mediation services are also available to try to assist the parties to negotiate a temporary or final resolution of their issues at the first appearance date.
Part 4: Conferences
A. Case Conferences and Settlement Conferences
- The parties may obtain a case conference date at their first appearance date or, if permitted by the Family Law Rules, by serving and filing a Notice of Case Conference with a date that has been obtained from the Trial Coordinator. To avoid unnecessary adjournment requests, the other side should be consulted before scheduling a date for any conference wherever possible.
- Counsel or the parties are required to communicate before any conference in order to attempt to narrow or resolve the issues that are in dispute, unless the parties are self-represented and prohibited from communicating by court order.
- Parties should serve and file a case conference brief (Form 17A) for case conferences and a settlement conference brief (Form 17C) for settlement conferences with any necessary attachments. The purposes of a case conference are set out in Rule 17(4) and the purposes of a settlement conference are set out in Rule 17(5). Parties should prepare their briefs with a view to a realistic agenda that can be completed in the time that has been scheduled for the conference.
- Conference briefs were designed to replace adversarial pleadings and affidavits. Absent exceptional circumstances, the briefs should be prepared in a manner that will promote a climate for settlement and can realistically be read by the conference judge in the time scheduled that day. The briefs should also set out the party’s proposal for any unresolved issues. Case conference briefs should be limited to the four page form set out in the Family Law Rules with a maximum of two additional pages of narrative and proposals, other than supporting material such as lists of outstanding disclosure or professional reports. Case conference briefs that exceed the six page maximum may be returned to the parties, and the matter may be placed at the bottom of the list. Lengthy or unduly adversarial case or settlement conference briefs may not be read. The matter may also be placed at the bottom of the list and costs may be awarded.
- At the conclusion of the case conference, the presiding judge will either schedule a settlement conference or give directions to the parties about scheduling their next step. If a motion is required, the parties should agree to deadlines to file their material, so that all material will be filed no later than 2 p.m. two business days before the motion is scheduled to be heard.
- Parties may arrange for a conference to occur by teleconference with permission obtained in advance from the judge who is scheduled to conduct the conference. The request should indicate whether the other side is consenting and, if not, the reasons. If the other party will not consent, a request for a teleconference may be made by filing a Form 14B Motion or by faxing a letter to the Trial Coordinator to be considered by the conference judge.
Motions to Change
- A request to change a final order is made by filing a motion to change under Rule 15. The first case conference on a motion to change a final order or agreement shall be scheduled before a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) for those centres that have a DRO program (Barrie, Newmarket and Oshawa) in accordance with Part I of the Consolidated Provincial Practice Direction.
- A DRO conference can be held on matters other than motions to change only as directed by the court. This may be requested by a Form 14B Motion or at another court event.
B. Trial Scheduling Conferences
- If the matter is not resolved at a settlement conference, the next event will be a trial scheduling conference. Where possible, the trial scheduling conference will be heard within 30 days of the settlement conference by the same judge. A trial scheduling conference will normally be scheduled by the settlement conference judge at the conclusion of the settlement conference, unless a judge has directed that the settlement conference and trial scheduling conference be combined. If the settlement conference and trial scheduling conference have been combined, the court will ensure that the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form is completed prior to the conclusion of the combined conference.
- The purposes of a trial scheduling conference are to ensure trial readiness and make directions regarding how the trial will proceed. The parties should serve and file a Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form in advance of the trial scheduling conference in accordance with the timelines in Rule 17(13.1), with the appropriate portions completed by each party, in lieu of the Trial Management Conference Brief (Form 17E).
- Prior to a matter being scheduled for trial, the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form must be fully completed and endorsed by the trial scheduling conference judge. In exceptional cases of urgency, a judge may place a matter on the trial list to secure a trial date before the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form is completed. In those cases, specific directions will be given about when the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form is to be completed and when the trial management conference is to be held.
- At the conclusion of the trial scheduling conference, a trial management conference will generally be scheduled by the presiding judge. Parties are required to advise the Trial Coordinator immediately if a matter settles so that this date can be made available to other matters.
C. Trial Management Conferences
- Unless otherwise ordered, a trial management conference will be held for any case that has not resolved 30 days prior to the scheduled trial date. Where possible, this event will be held within 2 weeks of the scheduled trial date. The purpose of the trial management conference is to confirm that parties are ready for trial, have filed their Trial Record and exchanged all other material required by the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form, provide any further directions or revisions to the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form and to explore any final possibilities for settlement to resolve the trial.
- Additional requirements relating to the trial management conference are contained in paragraphs 47 to 50 below.
Part 5: Motions
- If the parties require a judge’s order related to some aspect of the case, they may schedule a motion. Rule 14(4) provides that, except in urgent situations, no motion should be brought before a conference on the substantive issues in a case has been completed. Short motions are defined as motions that can be completed in less than one hour. Long motions are motions that are expected to take longer than one hour. 14B motions, which do not require a court attendance, and urgent motions, with or without notice, are also discussed below.
A. 14B Motions
- A Form 14B Motion may be filed for matters that are procedural, uncomplicated or unopposed, as set out in Rule 14(10). A 14B must be filed at the family court office and cannot be filed by fax.
- The 14B Motion and supporting materials must be filed in the Continuing Record.
B. Urgent Motions on Notice
- A party may seek an urgent motion on notice without a case conference in situations of urgency or hardship regarding serious issues such as abduction, safety issues or dire financial harm. A party seeking such a motion must serve and file all of the required materials except for a Form 14C Confirmation. Prior to bringing an urgent motion, the Trial Coordinator should be contacted to see if an urgent case conference can be scheduled before the motion is heard.
- In order to assist with having the order issued quickly, parties are encouraged to provide the court with a draft order for urgent motions.
C. Urgent Motions without Notice
- Motions without notice may be brought only in exceptional circumstances as set out in Rule 14(12).
- A court will not generally make an order without allowing both parties an opportunity to participate. In addition to addressing the requirements of paragraph 31 above, a party who is seeking a motion without notice to the other party must address why the other party has not been served. The motion materials should set out specifically and clearly why notice is unnecessary, not reasonably possible, or any other grounds that would justify the motion being heard without notice to the other side.
- An order obtained without notice will need to be served on the other party and the matter must be scheduled to return for another court date within 14 days, as set out in Rule 14(14).
- If a person is requesting a restraining order as part of his or her urgent motion, he or she should also complete the pink restraining order endorsement form with the required information (such as names and birthdates of those affected, as well as addresses at which the other side is to be prohibited from attending). This form is available at the Filing Office where the urgent motion is filed.
- If a restraining order has been granted, the court can arrange for service of the material on the other side, if requested by a party who is not represented by counsel.
D. Short Motions
- Motions that are expected to take one hour or less may be scheduled on the regular motion day for that centre. This date must be obtained from the Trial Coordinator. No factum should be filed for a short motion, unless ordered by the case conference or case management judge. The Notice of Motion and supporting material should be served and filed at the Family Court Office within the timelines set out in the Family Law Rules.
- If a motion is booked for one hour, each party will be permitted a maximum of 20 minutes for argument and five minutes will be available for reply. The remaining 15 minutes is for the judge’s decision and submissions regarding costs. If parties are not able to adequately deal with their matter within that time, they should schedule a long motion.
- If a party wishes to bring a cross-motion or responding motion on the same day, it must also be scheduled through the Trial Coordinator. If no additional time is required for argument, as the issues are the same as those already raised in the motion, the responding motion may be booked for the same day. If additional time will be required for argument, and time is not available on the same short motion day, the responding motion must be scheduled on another regular motion day that has time available. Alternatively, the parties may avoid two attendances by agreeing to have both motions heard together by the same judge on a long motions day.
E. Long Motions
- Motions that are expected to take more than one hour, as allocated in paragraph 39, must be scheduled as long motions through the Trial Coordinator or by the presiding judge at a conference. Long motions can be scheduled either (a) with the other party’s written consent or (b) with the court’s permission. The moving party must serve and file all their motion material and an Offer to Settle at least 30 days prior to the scheduled motion date, otherwise the date will be vacated. The responding party must serve and file their responding material and an Offer to Settle at least 15 days before the scheduled motion date. Reply material, if any, and a properly completed 14C, confirming the motion date and material to be read, must be served and filed by 2 p.m. seven days prior to the scheduled motion date. If a long motion is not confirmed by 2 p.m. seven days in advance, it will be removed from the list and the date will be vacated.
- The time for argument of a long motion will be allocated as follows: one third of the time scheduled for the motion will be allotted to the applicant for argument; one third of the time will be allotted to the respondent; and five minutes for each hour that has been booked will be allotted for reply. The remaining time will be for allocated for the judge’s decision and submissions regarding costs. The parties will be held to the time that they have scheduled.
F. Factums and Briefs of Authorities
- Unless otherwise directed by the conference judge, no factum should be filed for a short motion but a properly drafted factum is required on all long motions, other than Motions to Change. Each party’s factum must be served and filed by no later than 2 p.m. two business days before the hearing of the motion.
- No factum may exceed 20 pages without leave of the court.
- The authorities that are included on the court’s list of Often Cited Family Cases do not need to be provided to the court with a party’s factum. Counsel and parties are advised to refer to Part I-B of the Consolidated Provincial Practice Direction. An updated list of family cases is available on the Superior Court’s website at: www.ontariocourts.ca/scj.
G. Electronic Copies of Materials
- When a motion is complex or the volume of materials is large, the parties may file an electronic copy of their materials by providing them by USB. The USB should include a copy of their motion materials, including their factum, where required. Paper copies of the motion materials must also be filed in the Continuing Record. The factum should be filed as a separate document, which does not form part of the Continuing Record. Counsel and parties should refer to the Guide Concerning e-Delivery of Documents available on the Superior Court’s website.
Part 6 – Trials and Trial Records
- The Applicant must file a completed Trial Record, no later than 7 days before the trial management conference, containing the documents set out in Rule 23(1) and the completed Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form. The Respondent may add any documents that should have been included in the Trial Record, as set out in Rule 23(2), up to 2 p.m. two business days before the trial management conference. A current financial statement for each party and comparative net family property statement shall be included in the Trial Record. The parties do not need to update their financial statements and net family property statements again prior to trial unless there is a change or an updated statement has been requested by the court.
- No later than 2 p.m. two business days before the trial management conference, each party must also serve and file an Offer to Settle, an outline of their Opening Trial Statement and a Draft Order.
- If the trial record has not been filed by the trial management conference, an order may be made requiring that the trial record be prepared on an urgent basis and that costs are to be paid or alternatively the matter may be removed from the trial list.
- Any requests to adjourn the trial should be dealt with at the trial management conference in accordance with paragraph 10 above.
Part 7 – Uncontested Trials
- If no Answer has been filed within 30 days of the Application being served, Rule 23 allows a party to request a final order on affidavit evidence (Form 23C). Where a first appearance or case conference has been scheduled, or there is another upcoming court date, the Form 23C will not be considered by a judge in advance of the scheduled date.
- The party filing the Form 23C should ensure that all orders requested have been claimed in the Application. As the uncontested trial is a substitute for a full trial with oral evidence, he or she should also ensure that all evidence relied upon in support of the requested order is filed as part of the 23C.
Dated: December 1, 2017
Heather J. Smith
Superior Court of Justice (Ontario)
Regional Senior Judge
Superior Court of Justice, Central East Region
Contact information for the Family Courts in this region, including each Trial Coordinator for family cases, is attached as Schedule A.
Additional information about family cases in the Superior Court of Justice is available in the Guide to Process for Family Cases at www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/family/.
General information about family law and family cases is available from Community Legal Education Ontario at: http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/legal-topic/family-law.
Information about the mediation and information services that are available at the Family Courts in this region is available on the Ministry’s website at www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/mediation.php.
Family Trial Coordinator
Toll Free: 1-800-410-1061
Family Trial Coordinator
Toll Free: 1-800-410-1061
Family Trial Coordinator
Toll Free: 1-800-788-0977
Family Trial Coordinator
Toll Free: 1-800-788-0977
Family Trial Coordinator
Telephone: 905-743-2800, ext 7010
Family Trial Coordinator
Telephone: 905-743-2800, ext. 7012
Family Trial Coordinator
Toll Free: 1-800-788-0977