The first time you and your partner speak with a judge about your case is at a case conference. At a case conference, you and your partner (and your lawyers if you have them) meet with a judge to discuss and try and agree on your issues.
The goal of a case conference is to get you and your partner to agree on some or all of your issues without going to a motion or a trial.
Rule 17: Conferences tells you what you need to do to prepare for your case conference and what happens at one.
Your partner has to serve you with the following documents at least 7 days before your case conference:
If your partner’s financial statement is more than 30 days old at the time of your conference, you will also be served with one of the following documents:
- Form 13: Financial Statement or Form 13.1: Financial Statement, if there have been major changes to their financial situation.
- Form 14A: Affidavit, if there is no change or only minor changes to the last financial statement they filed. Your partner has to include details on any changes on the form.
Fill out your forms
You also have to fill out your own Form 17A: Case Conference Brief. In it you:
- give some information about your family
- give details about your financial situation
- list the issues you and your partner agree on
- list the issues you and your partner don’t agree on
- list the issues you want to talk about at the conference and include facts you think the judge needs to know
- include your ideas on how you and your partner can agree on the issues
If there are procedural issues, you list them for the judge in your case conference brief. For example, the judge can set a schedule or timetable for the next steps before trial and set dates by when you and your partner have to share documents.
You have to give the court updated financial statements. See Update your financial statements below to find out what you have to do.
Make copies of your completed documents for you and your partner.
Serve and file your forms
You must serve your partner with a copy of your documents at least 4 days before the date of your case conference. You serve them by regular service or special service. Serve your documents below explains how to do this.
See Count time below to understand how to calculate days or time correctly. This is important because court staff may not accept your documents if you haven’t followed the rules.
You need to go back to the courthouse once your partner has been served, to file your documents. You add your case conference brief to your court file, not to the continuing record. It goes in your court file so the judge can read it before your conference. It is given back to you after your case conference is over. This is because discussions at a case conference are private and can’t be shared with another judge.
Confirm your court date
You have to tell the court that you will be at your case conference. Confirm your court date below explains how to do this.
If you need an interpreter or any special arrangement because of a disability, see Ask for a special arrangement below.
If you or any of your witnesses need an interpreter or any special arrangement because of a disability, you can ask for this at any stage in the court process.
You can speak with any staff member at court about what you need or you can contact the Accessibility Coordinator at the court where your case, motion, or trial is being held. More information on accessibility at Ontario’s courts is available on the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website.
You must confirm your court date by 2 p.m., at least 2 days before your scheduled hearing. To do this, you must fill out and file Form 14C: Confirmation. This form tells the court that you’ll be at your hearing, what specific issues will be discussed at it, and what documents the judge should read. You can file the form in person at the courthouse or by fax.
Your partner also has to fill and file this form to confirm they will be at the hearing.
If you do not file your confirmation form in time, the hearing will not be held and you will have to get a new date.
Rule 3: Time tells you how to count time or days.
You must follow court rules that say the day by which you have to:
- serve your partner, or other people or agencies, with your documents
- file your documents with the court
- confirm your court dates
When you serve your documents, counting starts on the day after the “effective” service day. The effective service day depends on how you served the documents. If you served them:
- personally - service is effective the same day
- by mail - service is effective 5 days after the documents are mailed
- by courier - service is effective the day after the courier picks it up
- by fax - service is effective the day it is faxed as long as it is faxed before 4 p.m. on a day when the court is open
- at your partner’s home with anyone who seems to be an adult and then mailed to that address - service is effective 5 days after the documents are mailed
For example, suppose your partner has to get your documents at least 7 days before the date of your motion. If you serve them personally on Monday, the first day you count is Tuesday and the 7th day is the following Monday.
If the last day is a holiday, the time period ends on the next day that is not a holiday.
But if you have less than 7 days to serve or file your documents or to confirm your court date, then Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when court offices are closed are not counted.
Counting time or days is important because court staff won’t accept your documents if you have not followed the rules.
Rule 6: Service of documents tells you how to serve your partner and any other people or agencies you have to serve.
Documents can be served in 2 ways – by special service or by regular service. The Family Law Rules tell you which way you have to serve your documents at each step in the court process.
You can usually serve your partner yourself, or get a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server to do it for you.
To serve your documents by special service means you, a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server must do one of the following:
- give a copy to your partner directly, but you can't be the one to do this
- leave a copy with your partner’s lawyer
- mail a copy to your partner, but your partner must send back a special form to confirm they received the document
- leave a copy in an envelope addressed to your partner at your partner’s home with any adult living with your partner, and then mail a copy of the documents to that address within one day
Special service is usually used for documents that start the case or documents that could lead to the person being served going to jail.
To serve your documents by regular service means you, a family member or friend who is at least 18 years old or a professional process server, must do one of the following:
- mail a copy to your partner or their lawyer
- courier a copy to your partner or their lawyer
- fax a copy to your partner or their lawyer
- serve a copy by special service
The following documents can only be served by special service:
- an Application
- a motion to change
- a summons to witness
- a notice of contempt motion
- a notice of motion or notice of default hearing where the person to be served faces a possibility of jail
6B: Affidavit of Service
After your documents are served, you, or whoever served the documents, must fill out Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. This can be done at the court counter, with the help of the court clerk.
Form 6B asks for:
- the name of the person who served the documents
- the name of the person or agency that was served
- when the documents were served (day, month, and year)
- where the documents were served (house number, apartment number, street name, city, and province)
- what documents were served (Application, Answer, Reply, notice of motion)
- how the documents were served (personally, at place of residence, by regular mail, courier, or fax)
This form must be sworn or affirmed. This means the person signing it is promising that the information in it is true. It is against the law to not tell the truth when swearing or affirming an affidavit.
Form 6B proves that your partner got a copy of your documents and knows that they have to respond to them.
More information on serving documents can be found in the Ministry of Attorney General’s A Guide to Family Procedures, Part 6: Serving Documents.
If you fear for your safety or the safety of any friend or family member when serving documents, you can ask the court staff to arrange for your documents to be served.
Rule 13: Financial disclosure tells you what a financial statement is, when you need one, and how to fill it out.
If your financial statement is more than 30 days old at the time you have to file or serve your papers at any stage in the court process, you have to fill out, serve, and file one of the following:
- A new Form 13: Financial Statement or Form 13.1: Financial Statement, if there has been a major change to your financial situation.
- A Form 14A: Affidavit, if there is no change or only minor changes to the last financial statement you filed. You must include details on all the changes
You also have to fill out Form 13A: Certificate of Financial Disclosure. In it you list all the documents that prove why you’re asking for child support, spousal support, or to divide property. You must attach copies of all these documents.
For example, you can include copies of your pay stubs, recent tax returns, and notices of assessment. If you don’t have a copy of your notices of assessment, you can get a copy of your income and deductions statement from Canada Revenue Agency by calling 1-800-959-8281.