PROTOCOL FOR FAMILY AND CHILD PROTECTION MATTERS
IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF JUSTICE CENTRAL EAST REGION
(Effective April 19, 2022; updated June 1, 2022)
This Notice to the Profession and Family Law Litigants applies to proceedings in the Family Division of the Superior Court of Justice, Central East Region, commencing April 19, 2022.
This Notice supersedes all previous region-specific Practice Directions and Notices to the Profession for the Central East Region issued prior to this date which are hereby revoked unless specifically referenced in this Notice.
Counsel and parties are also advised to refer to the relevant Parts of the Court’s Consolidated Provincial Practice Directions.
- I. PRESUMPTIVE MODE OF HEARING
- II. SCHEDULING EVENTS
- III. CONDUCT FOR VIDEO (ZOOM) CONFERENCES
- IV. FILING OF DOCUMENTS & RESTRICTIONS ON DOCUMENTS
- V. INFORMATION FROM THE OFFICE OF THE CHILDREN’S LAWYER
- IV. INFORMATION FROM THE FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE
- VII. RESOURCES FOR SELF-REPRESENTED PARTIES
- VIII. MEDIATION/ Information and Referral Coordinators
For complete information on the Presumptive Mode of Hearing Guidelines for the Superior Court of Justice Guidelines in family proceedings, see:
- The following summary lists the presumptive modes of hearing for family court matters in Central East Region.
|Family||Early or Urgent Case Conferences||x|
|Without Notice/Ex Parte Motions||x|
|Trial Scheduling Conferences||x|
|Trial Management Conferences||x|
|Early Triage Conferences – Barrie Only||x|
|Procedural & Consent motions (14B, 23C)||x|
|Short motions * see paragraph 30 below||x||x*|
|TBST, Appearances, short (one-hour) motions||x|
|Procedural & Consent Motions (14B)||x|
2. When the Presumptions will be Implemented
- All events that are currently scheduled will proceed virtually unless otherwise specifically stated to be in-person in an endorsement from a judge.
- Other than trials, all new matters being scheduled for dates prior to September 12, 2022 shall proceed virtually unless the case management judge has specifically endorsed an in-person proceeding.
- All new events scheduled for dates on or after September 12, 2022 shall follow the presumptions above unless a judge has granted leave for an alternate mode of hearing as set out below.
- Trials set during the three-week trial sittings commencing May 16, 2022 shall be presumptively in-person unless already set down for a virtual trial by the case management judge. However, parties and counsel shall prepare for the possibility that the trial will proceed virtually.
3. Requests for an Alternate Mode of Hearing for Events after September 12, 2022.
- Parties and counsel can request that a Case Conference proceed virtually by completing a form that will be available at the Rule 39 First Appearance. The Registrar will submit it to a judge for consideration.
- Parties and counsel at a Dispute Resolution Officer hearing can request that the next Settlement Conference proceed virtually by completing a form that will be available at the Dispute Resolution Officer hearing. The DRO will forward it to a judge for consideration.
- Parties and counsel can request that other events proceed virtually by completing this form and e-mailing it to the Trial Coordinator copied to all other parties. The request will be forwarded to a judge for consideration.
- All requests for a virtual hearing shall be made at least 14 days prior to the event. A request to change the mode of hearing will not be considered on the scheduled hearing date.
- The Trial Coordinators in each centre can be contacted by e-mail as follows:
|Barrie, Bracebridge, Orillia||Barrie.SCJ.TC@ontario.ca|
|Peterborough, Lindsay, Cobourg||Peterborough.SCJ.TC@ontario.ca|
- Dates in child protection matters shall continue to be set by the case management judge or through the Trial Coordinator.
- The court will be regularly scheduling up to five conferences per day in accordance with local practice.
- Parties can request and schedule dates with the Trial Coordinator.
- If parties require an early or urgent date conference, they may file a 14B motion on notice to the other party requesting an earlier date. In the Tri-Counties (Peterborough, Lindsay and Cobourg), an urgent conference request form is available to make these requests. This form is not to be served on the other party for the Court’s consideration of the request.
- Recognizing that many separating families will attempt another form of dispute resolution prior to seeking relief from the Court, requests can now be made to obtain the Court’s permission to move directly to a combined case conference/settlement conference as the first step in the case. Rule 17(7.1) allows parties to make this request after they have tried to resolve the issues that are in dispute through mediation or Legal Aid Ontario settlement conference provided they are able to confirm that (i) there are no outstanding temporary issues, and (ii) neither party is seeking disclosure from the other party.
- These requests can be made by filing a 14B Motion Form along with Form 17G: Certificate of Dispute Resolution.
- If permission is granted, the parties will be expected to comply with all requirements relating to a settlement conference, including the filing of a Form 17C: Settlement Conference Brief and any additional documentation (for example, a Net Family Property Statement/Comparative Net Family Statement/litigation expert reports/Offers to Settle).
- In addition to requests that are made pursuant to Rule 17(7.1), pursuant to this Notice, where both parties consent to this process, they can request the Court’s permission to proceed directly to a combined case conference/settlement conference where they have participated in another dispute resolution process (for example collaborative family law), and also (i) there are no outstanding temporary issues, and (ii) neither party is seeking disclosure from the other party. These requests should also be made by filing Form 14B and a Form 17G from each party with any necessary revisions.
- Parties in a family law case may request Binding JDR to resolve family cases on a final basis that include a limited number of less complex issues. Binding JDR would typically be held after parties have resolved the majority of the other issues and to effect a final resolution. This must be arranged through the case management judge and is currently available for some matters in Barrie, Bracebridge, Peterborough, Cobourg, Lindsay, and Oshawa. Please review the Practice Advisory at: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/practice/binding-judicial-dispute-resolution-pilot/
- Region specific direction regarding this pilot project, including the participating locations and the forms that are required, is available at: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/practice/binding-judicial-dispute-resolution-pilot/notice-ce-family/.
- Regular motions (limited to one hour) can be scheduled through the Trial Coordinator or while setting next steps before the case management judge.
- The court is scheduling four motions per judge on each motions day to be set in accordance with local practice. Regular, one-hour motions can also be heard on standby in one of the regular family or combined child protection/family trial sittings during the year if endorsed by the case management judge.
- A cross-motion is considered a separate event and must be scheduled through the Trial Coordinator in a separate time slot from the original motion. If a party wishes to bring a cross-motion at the same time as the original motion as the issues are interrelated or for any other reason, that party must first obtain leave by way of 14B motion. This applies to child protection motions as well as family motions.
- If no case conference has been held, the party seeking to bring a motion must first obtain leave based on r. 14(4.2) of the Family Law Rules for the motion by 14B even if the motion materials have already been filed for a prior date. No motion can be scheduled through the Trial Coordinator unless a conference has been held or leave has been obtained in advance. This provision does not apply to motions without notice brought pursuant to r. 14(12) of the Family Law Rules.
- All regular motions are to be heard presumptively in writing unless the motion judge determines otherwise. However, counsel and parties are to be available to participate in a Zoom hearing in their time slot to provide submissions if the judge deems necessary. A Zoom link will be provided, but parties and counsel will not be given entry into the virtual meeting unless and until the judge deems it necessary. Parties or counsel are not entitled to make oral submissions unless the judge permits.
- All long motions (motions in excess of one hour) shall be heard in one of the regular family or combined child protection/family trial sittings during the year. Long motions will be set down by the case management judge who shall set a time limit for the motion(s) and set deadlines for the exchange of documents.
- In addition to the paragraphs above regarding regular and long motions, Forms 14 and 14A shall be served and filed 30 days prior to the scheduled date or, in the case of long motions, 30 days before the commencement of the trial sittings. The Responding materials (and any cross-motion authorized by the Court and properly booked through the Trial Coordinator) shall be served and filed 14 days prior to the motion date. The Response to the cross-motion or reply, if any, shall be served and filed seven (7) days before the motion with the reply to the cross-motion four (4) days before the motion. In the event the motion materials are not served and filed 30 days before the event, the Trial Coordinator is authorized to vacate the date.
- Prior to scheduling a motion, the parties must have conferenced the issue(s) in dispute within the previous 12-month period.
- The moving party must send a confirmation email of filing of the materials 30 days prior to the event to the appropriate Trial Office (Newmarket.SCJ.TC@ontario.ca or Oshawa.SCJ.TC@ontario.ca) as well as upload it into CaseLines. If confirmation is not received, the motion date will be vacated.
- If parties require an early or urgent date motion, they may file a 14B motion on notice to the other party requesting an earlier date. In the Tri-Counties (Peterborough, Lindsay and Cobourg), a one-page motion form is available to make these requests. This form is not to be served on the other party for the Court’s consideration of the request.
3. 1st APPEARANCES (Rule 39 Appearances)
- All First Appearance dates will be conducted virtually by Zoom. Any hearings currently scheduled as teleconferences will remain as teleconferences.
- Mediation and duty counsel are available to assist at First Appearance dates. Self-represented litigants are encouraged to contact duty counsel for legal advice to request assistance in advance of their hearings. See below for further information.
4. Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO) Dates
- Dispute Resolution Officer conferences are available in Newmarket, Oshawa, and Barrie. DRO conferences will continue to proceed virtually.
- Parties who have commenced a Motion to Change can request a date for a Case Conference with a DRO either at the First Appearance date or, if they have already had a First Appearance and were not assigned a date, through the Trial Coordinator, with the exception of Newmarket. For Newmarket matters, DRO Case Conference dates are set through: https://calendly.com/ce-newmarket-dro
- The DRO program may have earlier dates available than judges. If all parties consent, they can request a date with a DRO from the Trial Coordinator in lieu of a Case Conference before a judge for family applications other than Motions to Change.
- Where a hearing is set to be heard by videoconference, the Trial Coordinator will forward the Zoom link to all parties.
- Parties and counsel are to be ready in the Zoom waiting room 15 minutes prior to the scheduled time. In certain centres, court lists are tiered; in those centres, parties and counsel are asked to attend at 9:30 a.m. so that the list can be vetted by the presiding judge.
- Hearings that are conducted by video and teleconference are formal court events that replace an in-person attendance. Parties and counsel should conduct themselves as though they were in court. Counsel are expected to educate their clients with respect to appropriate decorum if they are not in the same location for the Zoom call. Counsel and parties are not expected to rise when the judge enters the conference or to stand during submissions. Counsel shall be required to gown based on the same requirements as for an in-person event. No parties or counsel shall be drinking (other than a glass of water), eating or smoking. It is expected that to the extent possible that parties and counsel will be in a separate room as opposed to in their car or out in public. All parties and counsel shall mute their microphones until the judge requests to hear from that person.
- For all child protection matters and conferences, parties shall make best efforts to ensure that they are participating in a private space without anyone else present unless the judge grants leave.
- The filing office is open, but counsel and parties are expected to e-file documents when at all possible.
- When documents are submitted to the court in electronic format, the document name must be saved as follows:
- Document type (including the form number in family cases),
- Type of party submitting the document,
- Name of the party submitting the document (including initials if the name is not unique to the case), and
- Date on which the document was created or signed, in the format DD-MMM-YYYY (e.g. 12-JAN-2021).For example, documents should be saved as follows:Expert Report – Defendant – Loblaws Inc. – 13-MAR-2021Financial Statement Form 13.1 – Respondent – A. Wong – 21-NOV-202111b Application – Defence – Nathanson – 12-JAN-2021Document names shall not include firm-specific naming conventions, abbreviations, or file numbers. Form numbers are only to be included in the names of documents submitted in family cases.
- Documents that are not properly named may be rejected by the filing office and may not be forwarded to the presiding judge until properly named, nor should they be uploaded into CaseLines.
- If the document is being filed by e-mail, the subject line of the e-mail must contain the same information as the document(s) enclosed to assist court staff in locating the documents easily.
- Counsel and parties are expected to issue and file their document electronically, along with any necessary filing fees by using the Justice Services Online Filing Portal. Please refer to the Consolidated Provincial Practice Direction in Family Proceedings. The portal is authorized to accept the electronic filing of most documents in a family law or child protection case more than five days before a hearing, along with any necessary filing fees. New applications and motions to change can also be filed through this portal, along with requests for fee waivers. Information regarding how to register for the JSOFP and how to file documents can be found at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-family-court-documents-online
- Parties shall not file documents using both the JSOFP and the CSD mailbox.
- In addition, several family court documents relating to a simple or joint divorce may continue to be filed electronically by using the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Family Claims Online Portal, in accordance with the Family Law Rules. https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-divorce-application-online
- Documents with a filing deadline of five days or less such as without notice motions, responding regular motion materials, conference briefs or confirmation forms can be filed by e-mail to the address set out below.
|Barrie, including Midland & Collingwood||BarrieSCJFamily@ontario.ca|
- CaseLines is currently being used throughout Central East Region for Case Conferences, Long Motions, and Trials for all family matters, except child protection matters. Use of CaseLines will expand to all family events shortly. The use of CaseLines for child protection cases is expected to be implemented in Fall 2022.
- CaseLines is a cloud-based document storage e-hearing platform that is used by the Court and the parties to access filed material for remote and in-person court proceedings.
- Once a CaseLines file has been created, all material that has been accepted for filing by the Court must also be uploaded to CaseLines immediately after receipt of confirmation that the filing has been accepted. Parties and counsel should check CaseLines for the relevant file even if an invitation has not been received, and they should contact Court Services Division at the generic email noted in paragraph 47 if they are not able to access a CaseLines file as expected.
- If the material has not been uploaded to CaseLines in accordance with the timelines for filing, it may not be reviewed by the judge in advance. If a self-represented litigant is not able to use CaseLines because of lack of access to technology, they can obtain help at the filing office. Assistance with CaseLines is available through Justice Systems Ontario by contacting 1-800-980-4962 or by email at CaseLines@ontario.ca
- Litigants are asked to use CaseLines to facilitate the Court’s access to the entire court file, including relevant documents from the Continuing Record. In addition to uploading event-specific documents after they have been filed, this means uploading the pleadings and Form 35.1 affidavits into the CaseLines pleadings bundle and the relevant orders and endorsements into the CaseLines orders/endorsements bundle. Litigants should also upload into the CaseLines bundle for the event any additional documents that have been previously filed and will be relied upon at the event (e.g. financial statements that have been updated by affidavit).
- If a party has improperly uploaded a document into CaseLines, it can be noted on the confirmation form and in the notes section of the CaseLines file.
- Additional information and direction regarding the use of CaseLines, including training and other resources, is available at: CaseLines Hearings – Tips for Counsel and Self-represented Parties | Superior Court of Justice (ontariocourts.ca)
3. Restrictions on Materials Filed
- Conference materials must comply with the following requirements:
- Case Conferences: Case conference briefs shall not exceed 8 pages, plus permissible attachments (as defined below) and additional documents that are required below or by the Family Law Rules. This 8page limit only includes the brief itself (Form 17A or B) and any additional pages of facts and/or arguments that are attached to the brief as an appendix or schedule;
- Settlement Conferences: Settlement conference briefs shall not exceed 12 pages, plus permissible attachments (as defined below) and additional documents that are required below or by the Family Law Rules. This 12-page limit only includes the brief itself (Form 17C or D) and any additional pages of facts and/or arguments that are attached to the brief as an appendix or schedule;
- Trial Scheduling Conferences: No Trial Management Conference brief shall be filed. Instead, litigants must file the completed Trial Scheduling Endorsement form, offers to settle all outstanding claims, and Trial Opening Statement;
- Trial Management Conference: The parties shall file the documents specified by the Case Management judge at the Trial Scheduling Conference.
- In preparing conference briefs, litigants may remove portions of the form that are not applicable to their situation (for example, the parenting sections where there are no parenting issues in dispute);
- Permissible attachments should only include relevant excerpts from the following documents, which are not included in the above page restrictions:
- Parenting assessments (pursuant to Section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act), Office of the Children’s Lawyer reports and Voice of the Child Reports;
- Documents that establish a child’s educational needs (for example, report cards or Individual Education Plans);
- Lists of any disclosure that remains outstanding;
- Income or business valuations, pension valuations or real estate appraisals (where the value of property is in dispute);
- Proof of income for the relevant period(s) including pay stubs, confirmation of benefits received and/or Statement of Business or Professional Activities from a party’s Income Tax Return;
- Domestic contracts, including separation agreements, marriage contracts or cohabitation agreements that are relevant to the issues in dispute;
- Relevant court orders including bail/release terms;
- Reports from the Children’s Aid Society; and,
- Child Support or Spousal Support Advisory Guideline calculations.
- Litigants must not include as attachments voluminous texts, emails and/or social media postings. Instead, only the relevant and necessary excerpts from these communications should be referred to in the conference brief itself.
- Litigants must also file additional documents that are required by the Rules, including Financial Statements, Net Family Property Statements/ Comparative Net Family Property Statements, litigation expert reports and Offers to Settle. These do not form part of the page limit if included with the conference brief.
- For short or regular motions, each party is restricted to one primary affidavit in support of their position on the motion and cross-motion (if applicable) which shall not exceed 12 pages of narrative. If a party also intends to rely on an affidavit that has been previously filed with the Court, the length of that affidavit is included in the 12-page limit. This limit does not include third party and reply affidavits, where required, which shall not exceed 5 pages each, or affidavits relating to a party’s financial statement in accordance with Rule 13(12)(b).
- In addition, exhibits to each party’s affidavit shall be limited to only the necessary and relevant evidence and are generally expected not to exceed 10 pages. Litigants shall not include voluminous texts, emails and/or social media postings. Instead, only the relevant and necessary excerpts from these communications should be attached as exhibits.
- Parties should also file the documents referred to in paragraphs 67 and 69 above for all regular motions, if applicable (with the exception of Offers to Settle which should not be included with motion materials). If attached as an exhibit to an affidavit, these documents are also not counted in the page limits above.
- Factums are not generally required for short motions, but are permitted. Books of Authorities shall not be filed, rather the lawyer or party shall provide the judge with a list of the case names upon he or she is relying with hyperlinks.
- The above restrictions do not apply to long motions, motions for summary judgment or hearings with respect to the wrongful removal or retention of a child.
- Affidavits in support of any 14B motion shall not exceed three pages of narrative and three pages of exhibits not including the documents listed in paragraphs 67 and 69 above.
- In addition, without exception, all documents filed for a family conference or motion must be prepared using a font size of no less than 12 pointand double spacing.
- Any documents filed in Adobe format must not be locked in order to ensure the judge can highlight and annotate the document, if necessary.
- Leave is required to file material beyond what is permitted above which will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. For motion materials, leave should be sought at the case conference. It can also be sought by 14B motion. Unless approval has been obtained in advance, material that is filed in excess of these restrictions will not be reviewed by the presiding judge and may result in an adjournment.
- To assist the Court in finalizing family orders more quickly, litigants should also provide a draft order in Word format that lists the specific relief that they are seeking with reference to the appropriate legislative authority in accordance with the new Form 25 Order (General). References to legislation that does not apply can be removed. Sample order clauses that can be used in the preparation of draft orders are available at: http://ontariocourtforms.on.ca/en/family-law-rules-forms/standard-clauses/.
- Confirmations for conferences and motions shall include details of what documents were filed in support of the event including the date of the document, when the documents were filed and where they were filed (ie. in person at the court, through the JSOFP or by e-mail to the CSD e-mail box).
- The provisions set out below apply regardless of the mode of proceeding except when indicated.
- Trial Records shall be filed through the Justice Services Online Filing Portal. Information regarding how to register for the JSOFP and how to file documents can be found at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/file-family-court-documents-online
- In addition, after the Trial Record has been filed electronically, twocopies of your Trial Record must be filed physically at the courthouse.
- All proposed Exhibits that you intend to rely upon at trial must also be served and filed in advance of your trial through the JSOFP. Again, twocopies of your Exhibit Brief must be filed physically at the courthouse and an electronic copy must be filed at electronically.
- The physical and electronic copies of your Trial Record and Exhibit Brief must be identical. That is:
- Both must have a Table of Contents (and the electronic copy must be hyperlinked);
- All Tab numbers must be consistent; and,
- All page numbers must be consistent.
It would be helpful, but not essential, if the Table of Contents for all documents could be hyperlinked to the document.
- In order to streamline the filing of Trial Records and Exhibits needed for these trial sittings, a temporary designated drop-off window at the filing counter has been created. You will not be required to ‘take a number’ at the filing counter to drop off these materials.
- The Trial window is not manned by court-staff, and no advice will be offered. Only Trial Records and Exhibits (with corresponding Affidavit of Service) may be left at this location; they will be collected and logged into the court system daily. Any other document deposited at this counter will be disposed of and will not be deemed to have been filed in your action.
- Long Motion materials shall be filed through the JSOFP. As well, a hard copy must be filed with the filing CSD filing office at the temporary drop-off window noted in paragraph 80.
- The Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL) will continue to accept referrals including for Voice of the Child reports. Referrals will be assessed for urgency, complexity and the usual intake criteria.
- For new matters, the OCL must be served electronically at LegalDocuments@ontario.ca, including service on any other person where a document must be left with the Children’s Lawyer (i.e., where service on a minor is effected by leaving a copy with the Children’s Lawyer). The OCL will still accept limited service by other means such as fax or drop off, especially from self-represented parties who do not have computer access.
IV. INFORMATION FROM THE FAMILY RESPONSIBILITY OFFICE
- Family Responsibility Office matters will be heard in person and shall all be set for 9:30 a.m.
- Please refer to the Family Responsibility Office website for the latest information: https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/MCSS/programs/familyResponsibility/index.aspx
- On-site duty counsel and/or advice counsel may be available. Please Legal Aid Ontario at the general toll-free number: 1-800-668-8258 for more information.
- If parties require assistance from duty counsel, they are asked to contact Legal Aid Ontario before the day of their hearing.
- Legal Aid Ontario has advised that summary legal advice services will be available through their telephone lines regardless of financial eligibility, but still subject to subject matter restrictions. Information about access to these services is available at:
Steps to Justice. This CLEO resource includes practical tools, such as checklists, fillable forms and self-help guides. They have been developed in plain language to assist users with a variety of legal issues. To access these resources go to https://stepstojustice.ca/legal-topic/family-law
Guided Pathways. CLEO has partnered with the Ministry of the Attorney General to develop an online resource called Guided Pathways to Family Forms. These online, interactive tools help users to complete court forms and understand the court process by taking them through a series of plain-language questions. Based on your answers, the pathways populate the applicable court forms and provide tailored legal information. At the end of the pathway, you will receive a package of their completed forms and a next steps checklist, which may be printed or saved to a computer. Please go to https://stepstojustice.ca/guided-pathways/family-law.
- The Ministry of the Attorney General has prepared guides to procedures in the Family Court. These guides are available on the Ministry of the Attorney General website. http://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/family/guides/fc.
- To access family court forms visit: http://ontariocourtforms.on.ca
- Off-site mediation services are available virtually by videoconference. Some in-person services may also be available, and you are directed to your local mediation service to inquire.
- Mediators continue to be available to provide virtual mediation by videoconference on hearing days. Parties wishing mediation should contact the applicable mediation centre or notify the court registrar at the commencement of a hearing.
- Mediation by teleconference is not available due to the requirements of screening for domestic violence that must be conducted in-person or by videoconference.
- Information and Referral Coordinators (IRCs) from each court location in the region will be available in the near future on-site at the courthouse. Contact information is set out below:
|Barrie & Bracebridge||The Mediation Centre of Simcoe County Inc.
|Newmarket||York Hills Centre for Children, Youth and Families
|Oshawa||Durham Mediation Centre
|Peterborough||Kawartha Family Court Assessment Service705-876-6915|
|Lindsay||Kawartha Family Court Assessment Service
|Cobourg||Kawartha Family Court Assessment Service
Dated: April 18, 2022
Mark L. Edwards
Regional Senior Justice
Superior Court of Justice
Central East Region