Settlement Conferences: A Short Guide
Contrary to popular opinion, a trial is not the first step to resolving the issues between parties. If you and your partner cannot agree on issues, you must both have a settlement conference before a judge. The Courts of Justice Act, Ontario Regulation 114/99, outlines the Family Law Rules. Rule 17 governs the procedural obligations for settlement conferences.
The Purposes of a Settlement Conference are:
(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 about any expert evidence or reports on which you or your partner intend to rely on 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) The person who is suing the other party has to know what evidence they will use in their case.; and
(h) Organizing a trial management conference, or holding one if appropriate.
Before the Settlement Conference
You must send certain court forms to the other party and file them with the court before the settlement conference commences.
These forms are:
- Your Form 17C: Settlement Conference Brief
- You will need to file statements about your property including the net family property statement, income statement and a certificate of disclosure.
- If your case involves support issues, updates to your Form 13/13.1: Financial Statement, your Form 13A Certificate of Disclosure.
- If your case involves property or support issues, you and your partner have to share financial documents before their settlement conference (Rule 17(14.2)). Documentation needs to prove you make enough money, that you don’t have debt and the worth of your assets.
- The person receiving the documents must have them sent as soon as possible in order to avoid delays.
- At least 3 days before a case conference, you must file a Form 17F: Confirmation of Conference to the court stating that you wish to proceed with the conference. Form 17F tells the judge the issues to be addressed and provides the required documents for review.
- If neither of you files Form 17F, then you require the judge’s permission to proceed with the conference.
During the Settlement Conference
The judge will listen to the submissions of each party on the issues and examine the evidence.
Each settlement conference is private and confidential. The judge’s recommendations at a settlement conference are not binding, and you do not have to agree with the judge. At the end of the conference, the judge will make an endorsement in the file to declare that the case took place. The judge may also predict how another judge is likely to decide the issues if the case goes to trial.
In some circumstances, the judge may record the conference for their own use. You can obtain a copy of the recording:
a) With the judge’s consent
b) A court order, but only in rare situations.
- A case shall not be scheduled for trial unless (Rule 17(10)),
(a) A settlement conference has been conducted; or
(b) A judge has ordered that the case be scheduled for trial
After the Settlement Conference
If you and your partner do not resolve your issues at the settlement conference, you may:
a) Schedule another settlement conference
b) Set up a trial management conference (Rule 17(5)(h))
If you wish to go to trial, you must complete the Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form, which states the issues that have not been resolved in the conference, the witnesses who are expected to testify, and any other issues relating to the trial (Rule 17(6))
We understand that navigating the procedural requirements and timelines of a settlement conference is extremely challenging during what is already a difficult time in your life. However, it can potentially resolve your issues and allow you to have a fresh start.
We highly discourage anyone from seeking out legal advice through this article. This article only provides general information and should you require assistance, please contact us to book a free initial consultation 905-366-0202 or through our website here.