Going to Trial in Ontario

Preparing for Trial

The applicant must serve and file a trial record at least 30 days before a trial in Ontario. The trial record must include:

1. The application, answer and reply, if any.
2. Any agreed statement of facts.
3. If relevant to an issue at trial, financial statements and net family property statements by all parties, completed not more than 30 days before the record is served.
3.1 If the trial involves a claim for custody of or access to a child, the applicable documents referred to in rule 35.1.
4. Any assessment report ordered by the court or obtained by consent of the parties.
5. Any temporary order relating to a matter still in dispute.
6. Any order relating to the trial.
7. The relevant parts of any transcript on which the party intends to rely at trial.

The respondent can then add to these documents by serving and filing them at least seven days before trial. Signed expert reports must be served at least 90 days before trial (unless it is a child protection case), and must contain:

1. The expert’s name, address and area of expertise.
2. The expert’s qualifications and employment and educational experiences in his or her area of expertise.
3. The substance of the expert’s proposed evidence.

Witnesses can be summoned using a Form 23 (Form 23A if the witness is outside of Ontario), and must be paid set amounts for their time, travel, and stay. A court may issue a warrant for arrest (Form 32B) if a person fails to respond to a summons and it is necessary to have them present.

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Trial Management Conferences in Ontario

Trial management conferences in Ontario are very similar to settlement conferences, and in some circumstances can be held together. A trial management conference is held by a case management judge, a trial judge, or a judge who has never seen the case before.

The purposes of a trial management conference are described in Rule 17(6) of the Family Law Rules (O. Reg. 114/99):

(a) exploring the chances of settling the case;
(b) arranging to receive evidence by a written report, an agreed statement of facts, an affidavit or another method, if appropriate;
(c) deciding how the trial will proceed;
(c.1) exploring the use of expert evidence or reports at trial, including the timing requirements for service and filing of experts’ reports;
(d) ensuring that the parties know what witnesses will testify and what other evidence will be presented at trial;
(e) estimating the time needed for trial; and
(f) setting the trial date, if this has not already been done.

The filing requirements for trial management conferences are similar to settlement conferences, except the parties must file a Form 17E. This form outlines the issues which have and have not been settled by the parties, the names of witnesses and how much time required for them to testify, and a check list of procedural matters required before going to trial.

Although settlement conference briefs are not part of the continuing record, trial management conference briefs do not have the same confidentiality and are not destroyed after the conference.