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What is a conference in my child protection case?
A conference is when you and a Children’s Aid Society (CAS) go to court and discuss your case with a judge to try and reach an agreement. The goal of a conference is to try to resolve your issues with the help of a judge, without a hearing or trial.
Conferences take place at the courthouse.
There are 3 types of conferences:
The type of conference you go to depends on where your case is in the court process. You can go to more than one of each type of conference in your case.
A case conference usually focuses on what has to be done to move your case forward. This might include setting deadlines for filing court documents and how you can get copies of CAS documents. You may also talk about issues you agree on and those you don't.
Some places in Ontario may have a "TBST", which means "to be spoken to" appearance, instead of a case conference. A TBST lets the court see whether you and CAS are doing what you're supposed to do to keep your case moving forward. For example, if you agreed to find a counsellor, the court may want you to report on whether you found one.
Child protection cases don't have to have a case conference or TBST. This means you might not have one and your first conference is a settlement conference.
A settlement conference usually focuses on discussing your issues to see if you and CAS can agree on any of them. Sometimes the judge tells you how they would decide your case. This may help you understand what the court might order if your case goes to trial.
A settlement conference is supposed to take place within 80 days after CAS starts a child protection application. But this deadline is often not followed.
The court may delay a settlement conference if you're working on your issues and are not ready to talk about settlement yet.
Trial management conference
A trial management conference usually focuses on how you and CAS can get ready for a trial if you can't settle your issues. You're asked who you plan to call as witnesses and how you plan to present your evidence in court. The court also tries to estimate how much time your trial will take.
If you need an interpreter or have a disability
If you need an interpreter, you can ask the court for one at any stage in the court process.
If you need an arrangement because of a disability, speak with any staff member at court about what you need. For example, you may not be able to hear well. You can also contact the Accessibility Coordinator at the court where your case is being held.
More information on accessibility at Ontario's courts is available on the Ministry of the Attorney General's website.
Also, if you speak French, you have the right to ask that your case take place in French.