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Court reopening – Marc J. Coderre

In Ottawa, the “family Law court” has reopened as of the month of July 2020, although in a very different and, presumably, temporary model.

Typically, there are 5 possible hearings in a family law case: the first court date, the case conference, a motion, a settlement conference and, ultimately, a trial.

The first court date is a very short hearing used to schedule the mandatory first step which is a case conference. The case conference is a step in the family case where the presiding Judge or Master will usually give guidance of the parties with respect to the next steps and ensure that the disclosure of relevant documents and information is being made. Typically, the judicial officers do not have “substantial powers” during such hearings. Those are currently being conducted by telephone conference.

A motion is a very important step where the court will make Temporary Orders such as temporary support before trial, exclusive possession of the home, the sale the home etc. This step is, as a rule, currently being conducted by way of Zoom conferences.

The settlement conference, better referred to as “a pretrial”, is the last step before a trial. This is a step where the presiding Judge (who will not be the trial Judge) will try to narrow the issues and try to assist and/or help the parties and the lawyers settle the case. There is much preparation for this step and lawyers and/or self-represented parties need to file concise briefs and various financial statements and offers to settle. This step is, as a rule, currently being conducted by way of Zoom conferences.

Trials

As of September 10, 2020, we have not received directions from the Courts as to how trials will be conducted. It is my understanding that trials will be scheduled commencing November 2020, and it is not known whether or not those will be virtual trials or “in person trials”.

For guidance on such matters, please feel free to contact me.

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