Progress of a Case in Family Court
- Last Updated on 23 April 2013
There are five steps in which your case may progress through the Family Court.
Step 1: Case Assessment Conference (CAC)
The purpose of the CAC is for the Court to assess the main issues involved in your case and what future Court services you may require. CACs are usually conducted in property and financial matters and in children’s matters. When children’s matters are before the Court, CACs will be conducted by a Court Counselor.
The CAC provides an early opportunity for you to reach agreement.
The CAC is usually conducted by the Registrar of the Family Court who will explain how the CAC works and the steps to be taken in an effort to resolve your dispute.
Who attends the CAC?
Both parties must attend. The Registrar will see the parties at the same time or separately. Parties must attend with their lawyers, if they are represented. If children’s matters are in dispute, the Court Counselor will convene the CAC.
Step 2: Conciliation Conference
The purpose of a Conciliation Conference is for you to define the issues in dispute and whether settlement can be reached on some or all the issues. The Conciliation Conference is convened by the Registrar of the Family Court. You are expected to make genuine efforts to settle your disputes at the Conciliation Conference. If you settle your issues, it will save you the need to go to trial.
When financial matters are involved, the Conciliation Conference is convened by the Registrar. A joint conference may be convened by the Registrar and the Court Counselor where the dispute involves children and financial matters.
What happens if you reach agreement?
If you have reached agreement on all issues, your lawyer, or if you are unrepresented, the Registrar will prepare Terms of Settlement for you and your former partner to sign. The Terms of Settlement will be reviewed by the Court and if satisfied, the Court will make Consent Orders. Consent Orders can be enforced by the Court.
What happens if you do not reach agreement?
If you are unable to reach agreement, the Registrar may:
- Adjourn the Conference and make orders or give directions;
- List the matter for further Procedural Hearing
- List the matter for a Pre-Trial Conference
IMPORTANT: It is important that you make full and frank disclosure of all facts and documents relevant to your application. Failure to do this will delay settlement and increase costs.
Step 3: Procedural Hearing
The procedural hearing is conducted by the Registrar and is held after the CAC. In a Procedural Hearing, the Registrar will give orders or make directions setting out the next steps and what must be done to move your case forward.
At this stage, you are encouraged to negotiate with your former partner to settle the issues in dispute. If the issues between you have been resolved, the Registrar or your lawyers will draw up the Agreement you have reached and the Agreement will be sent into Court for review before the Consent Orders are registered.
What happens if you reach agreement?
The Registrar will assist you explore other options to resolve any outstanding issues in dispute and will give you directions on what other steps you would need to take or any papers you need to file to allow your case to move to the next stage.
Step 4 : Pre-Trial Conference
A Pre-Trial Conference is held to determine whether your matter is ready for trial in Court. This conference is convened by the Registrar and it involves all parties and their lawyers, if they are represented. The Registrar will give directions on the documents required for submission, and will draw up a draft trial plan to determine how much time the Court should allocate to your case, before your case is listed for trial.
REMEMBER: you can settle your case anytime before trial. The Pre-Trial Conference offers a good opportunity for you to try and settle your case.
Step 5: The Trial
The Trial is the final stage and it is held in a Court before a Family Court Magistrate. The Magistrate will hear all your arguments and those of your witnesses and will make a decision and pronounce orders to finalize your case.