Settlement Conferences in Ontario

After the parties in a family law dispute bring a motion, they may be able to resolve all of their differences without any further judicial involvement. If issues remain in dispute, a settlement conference is usually held a month after the motion with a case management judge, or by a trial judge when a case management judge is not available.

A settlement conference  must be held in every case where an answer is filed, except for child protection cases. Trial dates are not provided until after the settlement conference is completed, although they can be scheduled prior under judicial discretion.

The goals of a settlement conference are outlined in Rule 17(5) of the Family Law Rules (O. Reg. 114/99):

(a) exploring the chances of settling the case;
(b) settling or narrowing the issues in dispute;
(c) ensuring disclosure of the relevant evidence;
(c.1) settling or narrowing any issues relating to any expert evidence or reports on which the parties intend to rely at trial;
(d) noting admissions that may simplify the case;
(e) if possible, obtaining a view of how the court might decide the case;
(f) considering any other matter that may help in a quick and just conclusion of the case;
(g) if the case is not settled, identifying the witnesses and other evidence to be presented at trial, estimating the time needed for trial and scheduling the case for trial; and
(h) organizing a trial management conference, or holding one if appropriate

The settlement conference judge provides his or her view of how a trial judge might decide the case, and encourages the parties to explore settlement options. Depending on the case, a settlement conference may be combined with a trial management conference.

A judge has a wide range of orders that they can make at a settlement conference including:

  • documentary disclosure
  • questioning
  • filing of summaries of arguments on a motion
  • set time for events
  • use of expert witness evidence at trial
  • service and filing of expert reports
  • affidavit evidence by a witness
  • requiring parties to attend mandatory information programs
  • requiring parties to attend a subsequent case conferences or settlement conferences with a non-judge
  • requiring parties to attend an intake meeting with a court mediation service
  • requiring parties to attend a community service or resource
  • make a final or temporary order, if notice was provided
  • an unopposed order or order on consent
  • referring an issue for alternative dispute resolution, on consent

The applicant or the party requesting the settlement conference must serve their conference brief within seven days, and the other side must serve their brief within four. Attendance must be confirmed two days prior using a Form 14C.

Any brief or statements presented in a settlement conference will not be disclosed to another judge unless there is an agreement or order from the conference.

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