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

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

If you have a court date at a Superior Court of Justice (SCJ) 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, SCJ 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
  • Exclusive possession of the matrimonial home
  • Hague applications and other child abduction cases

Non-urgent matters

Starting April 6, 2020, some courts began hearing some non-urgent matters by telephone and video conference. While each SCJ court decides what non-urgent matters they hear, most courts hear:

  • requests for consent orders
  • case conferences that have a few issues 

Some courts also hear:

  • motions for procedural issues and disclosure (14B motions)
  • motions
  • settlement conferences

Check the court's website for more information about which non-urgent matters they are hearing. Or contact your local court for more information.

Court re-openings

From July 6, 2020, 56 courtrooms are reopening and hearing more cases. Trials and other urgent hearings that were scheduled to be heard over the past few months are priority.

The remaining courtrooms will gradually open after that. All SCJ 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 are encouraged to file your documents electronically. For example, if you're applying for a divorce, you can use the Ministry of the Attorney General's website for filing divorce applications. Or, you may be allowed to file your documents by email. Check the court's website for more information on how to file your documents.

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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