[Please be advised that the information provided is not to be constituted as legal advice]

How do you determine in a family law case whether a court date is going to be set?

A court date is set depends on whether the case is “standard track” or “fast track.” Applications that contain a claim for divorce or a property claim are standard track; all other cases are fast track. In a standard track case, the clerk does not automatically set a court date when the application is filed. The applicant waits until the respondent has been served and has filed an answer before the next step is taken, namely, the booking of a case conference. If the applicant wishes to obtain a case conference date at the time the application is filed, most courts (but not all) will allow you to do so by serving and filing a conference notice as per Form 17. The conference will not be held until at least six weeks thereafter to give sufficient time for the application to be served and for the respondent to file responding materials.

What is a “First Apperance Court” (FAC)

The first court date is always before a court clerk called the First Appearance Court (FAC).

What is the Mandatory Information Program?

If there are claims other than a divorce (and costs) or the incorporation of the terms of an agreement or prior court order, litigants must attend a Family Information Session (FIS). This in person session led by a facilitator, lawyer, and social worker provides parties with information about the legal process and includes information on alternatives to court, such as mediation, arbitration, and collaborative family law; the impact separation has on children; and resources available to deal with problems arising from separation. Unless a party provides a certificate that they have attended an FIS, they may not take any further step in the case. Separate dates are given for applicants and respondents.

What happens at a DRO hearing?

This is a session presided over by a senior family law lawyer who reads all of the materials and offers the parties his or her opinion on the likely outcome of the case and guidance on possible avenues of settlement. Although the DRO has no power to make any orders, the session provides litigants and counsel with an excellent chance to hear from experienced counsel about how their case appears to a neutral evaluator and, accordingly, the opportunity to settle before moving the case any further into the litigation process. Case conference briefs are helpful but not required.