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I have a court date for a family case in the Ontario Court of Justice. What should I do?

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I have a court date for a family case in the Ontario Court of Justice. What should I do?
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I have a court date for a family case in the Ontario Court of Justice. What should I do?
Reviewed: 
July 6, 2020
Answer
Check here for updates from the Ontario Court of Justice: www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/

If you have a court date at an Ontario Court of Justice (OCJ) family court, check with the court to find out whether your case is going to be heard on that date and whether your hearing will be in-person or virtual by telephone or video conference.

Until recently, because of COVID-19 OCJ family courts were hearing only urgent matters. These urgent cases were heard by telephone or video conference and dealt with:

  • Urgent motions about custody and access
  • Motions for restraining orders
  • Hague applications and other child abduction cases
  • Motions for a refraining order
  • Some child protection matters, for example, temporary care and custody hearings and status review hearings

Non-urgent matters

Starting May 19, 2020, some courts began hearing case conferences that had been postponed, by telephone and video conference. But trials and other non-urgent matters were not being heard unless the court made an order that your case will be heard. And new matters were not being heard unless they were urgent.

Court re-openings

From July 6, 2020, courts are gradually reopening and hearing more cases. All OCJ courts expect to be open by November 1. This means not all courts or all courtrooms are open right now. And some cases will be heard in-person, while others will have a telephone or video hearing. It's best to contact your local court for more information.

You're encouraged to file your documents by email. The list of email addresses for each court can be found here: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/courthouse-email-addresses/. If you can't email your documents, you may be able to send them by fax. Contact your local court to find out what your other options are. 

In-person hearings

Make sure you get to court early as there are extra screening measures now. The government has developed a screening tool with questions that screen for COVID-19 symptoms. If you can't enter the courtroom, you will be given information about what to do next. If you can enter the courtoom, you will be required to wear a face covering.

And, in most cases, only the parties, their lawyers, and witnesses are allowed to enter the court for in-person hearings. Others, like family members and support persons, are allowed in only if "absolutely necessary".

Legal help

Legal Aid Ontario

You can get summary legal advice and duty counsel services over the phone from Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) at 1-800-668-8258 or, in Toronto, at 416-979-1446. Because of COVID-19, anyone can use this service to get legal advice and information at this time. It doesn't matter what your income is.

Emergency family law referral telephone line

You can call the Law Society of Ontario's temporary emergency family law referral telephone line if you have a family law issue and you:

  • don't have a lawyer
  • don't know if your issue is urgent or not
  • don't know your next steps if your matter is urgent

If this is your situation, the referral service will help you get 30 minutes of free legal advice and information from a family law lawyer. Call 416-947-3310 or 1-800-268-7568.

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