In Ottawa, the Family Court is set up such that when a party files their material they receive a ‘first Court date’. Up until recently, that date was used for the parties to meet up with the registrar and schedule their availability for a Case Conference. If possible, they would attend at the free mediation services offered through the Family Law Information Centre (FLIC).
The first appearance was not very helpful, and unless the lawyers agreed to turn that appearance into a Case Conference, they could not proceed with Court for a number of months. A Case Conference is when you can actually proceed before a Judge or Master, discuss the exchange of documents/information necessary to resolve issues, and potentially address some of the issues. It is also an opportunity for both parties’ lawyers to meet up and have face to face conversations.
In April I attended the Annual Family Law Conference held in Montebello, Quebec, and Justice Johanne Lafrance-Cardinal from Cornwall informed the audience of the new approach to first appearances. In Cornwall the system changed such that matters could actually proceed before a Judge on a first appearance Court date, and people can actually get an Order for certain procedural matters, on consent. It appears that the Ottawa Family Bar listened to Justice Johanne Lafrance-Cardinal and they have embraced this new approach to the first Court date. This is a welcome change. In Ottawa, this first Court appearance is now becoming an actual step in the process, and this will prevent delays. This is a necessary change.
If you have a first Court appearance coming up, do not hesitate to contact Menzies Lawyers, we can assist you in making the most out of that Court date.
For assistance in evaluating your family law matters, please contact Jonathan Solomon (Extension 203) or Sabrina Herscovitch (Extension 204) of our office at 613-722-1313.
Menzies Lawyers is a multi-service Ottawa based litigation firm which can assist with a broad range of civil litigation and family law matters. This blog article by Jonathan Solomon is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.