In family law, we have several levers we can pull to try to find a solution to disagreements before resorting to a court case. One such option is a Family Case Conference. In this week’s blog, we’ll explain what a Family Case Conference is, and what to expect if you are considering it as an option for your family.
What is a Family Case Conference?
A Family Case Conference is an informal one-hour meeting involving the two individuals involved in a family law case, a Provincial Court Judge, and the lawyers representing the two parties – if they have any. Although unusual, if any party wishes to have someone else attend, they can with the judge’s permission. This does NOT extend to either party’s witnesses. What is said at the Family Case Conference would likely influence their testimony if the disagreement proceeds to a full court case.
What to Expect at a Family Case Conference
Despite the presence of a judge, a Family Case Conference is typically a more laid-back affair than a conventional court appearance. It will take place in a private conference room, with the judge in attendance dressed in business clothes rather than robes.
The judge facilitates an open and honest dialogue to establish the grounds of the dispute between the parties, and whether any common ground can be reached. This discussion will likely encompass topics such as the needs of the children, how to meet those needs with a parenting plan, how best to divide parenting responsibilities.
Both parties are typically given a chance to talk about their issues. The judge will comment on the strengths or weaknesses of each party’s case and can even share their perspective of the case with the parties. In some cases, this can serve to settle the dispute.
Potential Results of a Family Case Conference
Depending on the issues to be resolved, there are several outcomes that can arise from a Family Law Conference. Here are some of the common examples:
- Define and mediate the issues at hand
- Advice on alternative dispute resolution options that may be more suitable than a court case
- Procedural orders to aid the resolution of the dispute (deadlines for financial disclosures etc.)
- Referral to Mediation and discussion on how it will be paid for
- A non-binding legal opinion on the probably outcome of a trial
- The setting of a trial date (as a last resort)
Deciding if a Family Case Conference is Right for You
In family law it pays to be prepared. At Westside Family Law, we have helped countless clients navigate the Family Case Conference process. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.