Court. (last resort)

No-one wants to go to court. It is expensive, lengthy and adversarial. It hurts children. It destroys relationships between spouses. You are not in control as a Judge makes a decision. It is public. In contrast, any of the processes above is less expensive, faster and collaborative. The children’s interests are protected. The relationships are preserved. The parties are in control as they make decisions. It is a private process.

"It is not hard to see why clients do not want to go to court. Family court is an anachronism."

In the vast majority of cases, it is not the appropriate forum to resolve family law issues. That being said, it will always be needed for some files. Hopefully, you do not have one of those files. If you do then we also offer that service. If you do have to go to court then we will be as efficient as possible and use the strengths of the court system to your advantage.

The first appearance in court is called a case conference. The goal at the case conference is to ensure that disclosure (paperwork) has been exchanged or will be exchanged and to narrow the issues. There are several courtrooms in Ottawa every day dealing with case conferences. There is a list at 10 a.m. and a list at 2 p.m. If you are the third matter on the list then you wait your turn and appear in front of the Judge or the Master - you get about 15 to 30 minutes depending on the day. The presiding Judge does not have jurisdiction to make a substantive order at the case conference. The idea is that you go see the Judge, see what he or she says about the issues, then go out in the hallway and cut a deal.

The second appearance is a motion - which usually follows the case conference but is not mandatory. At this appearance a Judge has the jurisdiction to make a substantive order but only on a temporary basis. An order made on a motion only lasts until the final order is made at trial.

The next appearance is usually a settlement conference. It is similar to a case conference but all of the information is available, if the motion is to occur it has occurred and you get more time with a Judge e.g. usually one hour.

If the matter does not settle then it is placed on a trial list. There are trial blitzes set every couple of months e.g. two week period. If you are number 14 on the list then the court calls in 1 to 13 and when they are ready for you they call you in. Sometimes you only get a couple of hours notice. The applicant proceeds to call witnesses and evidence. The respondent replies. The Judge makes a final order. The final order can be appealed.

There can be multiple case conferences, motions and settlement conferences. There are sometimes urgent motions brought before case conferences. There are other potential steps e.g. questioning where a party is asked questions under oath. In the United States they call this depositions. You have to pay the lawyer to go. You have to pay to rent the space as this is done privately. You have to pay the reporter to produce the transcript.

If you see dollar signs flashing before your eyes you are correct - this is an expensive procedure and one that should only be used as a last resort.