The ending of a marriage can be frightening enough, let alone having to appear in front of a judge when there’s so much at stake. In Ontario, when a marriage breaks down, the court may grant a divorce. Only a court can grant a divorce, and this may involve attending ‘conferences’, the first of which is typically a Case Conference.
It is the responsibility of each person involved in the proceedings to apply and then present their case to satisfy the court; that there has been a breakdown of the marriage. Applications are made to the Superior Court of Justice or Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice if available in the parties’ jurisdiction. If your divorce application includes claims such as custody, or access, support or division of property, you may be asked to appear in front of the court, in person.
A divorce court case usually takes place while your divorce case is pending. You may also need to attend a court hearing if your circumstances are complicated and not everyone agrees on all or some of the issues. The date of the court case is usually set after the parties know their respective positions on all the items in their divorce application and can start working towards a resolution. Any financial disclosure is typically exchanged before the court case so that the discussion can be open and meaningful.
The first case conference is designed to encourage parties to discuss their issues. A fruitful discussion now will make coming to a decision faster and less complicated resolution.
A case conference is your first court appearance, where all relevant parties attend. Usually, it’s a discussion between the parties, their lawyers and the judge, focusing on the unresolved issues in the divorce application. It is at this time that the parties will gain an understanding of the court’s view of their case.
Depending on the issues that need to be resolved, the discussion of the court case will explore settlement, understanding what each person can agree on, disclosure of evidence and identifying next steps.
The court case needs to be as productive as possible. It is critical to share what’s been disclosed and what’s already been agreed. Supplying this information is essential, as it is the judge who can decide how parties will settle their issues. In some cases the presiding judge may make an order for support for example, or to sever the divorce from the remaining issues.
The judge needs to know the issues and needs to thoroughly understand the facts regarding the concerns of the divorce application. Before the court case, each party completes a ‘conference brief’. This information is vital as the judge reads it beforehand and can base recommendations on this content.
A court case appearance is critical to moving your divorce court application forward and to a resolution. Much care needs to be taken when preparing for your court case to ensure the information is complete and accurate.
You should consider having a lawyer help give you some advice on how to prepare for your court appearance, specifically drafting your documents. Reach out to us at Epstein Lawyers, and one of our divorce experts can help guide your way.