A few months ago, we published an article exploring motions — actions that are brought before the court. However, this is only part of the family law process, and it is important that everyone has a clear understanding of other stages. Today, we’ll focus on what case conferences are and how to prepare for them.
What is a Case Conference?
In family law, a case conference is a meeting held in the attendance of and between parties, respective lawyers (if applicable), and a judge. The goal of this meeting is for parties and their partners to reach a mutual agreement with one another without progressing towards a motion or a trial. In layman’s terms, it’s an opportunity to smooth disagreements out and amicably end the proceedings before they move deeper into the family court system. Typically, this will consist of half a day in court, with the conferences themselves generally lasting around an hour or so. You should note that a Case Conference is required prior to bringing any interim motions.
Preparing for a Case Conference
In preparation for a case conference in the Superior Court of Justice, the firsts thing you need to do is review rule 17 of the Family Law Rules, which regulates Case Conferences. Either party may request the date for the conference from the court clerk in the form of an issued Conference Notice (Form 17) (this procedure may vary in structure from court to court). Bear in mind that there is typically a lengthy waiting period, so try to book the conference as early as possible, and remember to obtain the other party’s availability. The Conference Notice will need to be served on the opposing party, and filed with the Court.
Case Conference Brief
Now that the date has been set, each party must complete a Case Conference Brief (Form 17A, three copies). This is a summarization of the dispute, facts, and your position regarding a settlement and/or next steps and should be kept short, concise, and resolution-oriented. Support calculations, document-based evidence, and copies of professional reports can be included with this brief. In addition, you are required to provide an updated Financial Statement (Form 13 or 13.1) within 30 days of the conference, the latter of which should consist of a copy included in the Case Conference Brief and the original filed in the Continuing Record. A Net Family Property Statement in the event of a property claim (Form 13B) may also be necessary. Finally, be sure to include an Affidavit of Service (Form 6B).
With this documentation collected, serve all the forms at least seven days before the conference (the opposite party must submit everything at least four business days beforehand). Then each party must fill out and submit a Confirmation Form (Form 14C) no later than 2:00pm two business days prior to the case conference. This ensures that both parties confirm their attendance.
Attending the Case Conference
Following that, both parties must attend at the Case Conference on the specified day. Whether or not either of you opt for a lawyer to fully or partially represent during this procedure is up to you. If you choose not employ a family lawyer or it is not financially feasible, hiring a legal coach to consult and guide you through the process is an alternative option.
The conference could go in many directions, including ensuring disclosure of relevant evidence, setting motion dates, organizing a settlement conference, and identifying the issues being disputed upon and those that can be sorted out. The judge may make a temporary or final order (on consent), or refer parties to an alternative form of dispute resolution.
For further details about case conferences in family law or if you require guidance, contact Court Coach to schedule a consultation with one of our family lawyers.