Family Law Rules – The Court’s Case Management Duties

July 17, 2013
Ron Shulman

Article written by Ron Shulman

If you are a potential family law litigant, it’s important to understand how the Ontario legal system works.  In the past few posts, I have explored the expressly-defined purposes of the Ontario Family Law Rules, and in particular the role of judges in fostering and promoting those purposes.

The Rules, in addition to setting out its general objective, also imposes a positive duty on judges, litigants and their lawyers to promote that objective at all times.

But as part of this duty, the Rules also impose an affirmative obligation on judges to manage family law cases that come before them.   This is done by requiring courts to promote the primary objective of “enabl[ing] the court to deal with cases justly”, which must include the “active management of cases”.

This, in turn, includes:

  • identifying the issues at an early stage,
  • separating out and disposing of those issues that do not need a full investigation and trial,
  • encouraging and facilitating the use of alternatives to the court process,
  • helping the parties to settle all or part of the case,
  • setting timetables or otherwise controlling the progress of the case,
  • considering whether the likely benefits of taking a step are justified by the cost,
  • dealing with as many aspects of the case as possible on the same occasion, and
  • if appropriate, dealing with the case without parties and their lawyers needing to come to court.

(On this last point, the court can allow the parties to submit written documents, or to hold a telephone or video conference.)

Family law disputes are procedurally and emotionally challenging at the best of times.  The court’s obligation to manage the cases, pare them down, and facilitate and streamline the process is aimed at making the process a little bit easier, if at all possible.

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm dedicated to providing practical advice and effective representation in family law trials, on appeals and in Alternative Dispute Resolution processes (ADR), such as negotiations, mediations and arbitrations.  Contact us to set up a consultation.