What happens at a first court date in my family court case?

The first court date is called an administrative appearance. Depending on where you live, it may not be in front of a judge or even in a courtroom.

The , (DRO), or judge meets with you and your partner to check that all of your documents are complete and have been properly served.

Then the court clerk, DRO, or judge may set a date for your first . A case conference is usually the first time you and your partner meet with a judge to talk about your issues.

Not all family court cases have a first court date. It depends on:

  • which court is hearing your case
  • whether you and your partner have tried family mediation

Step 1 explains when you may be able to skip a first court date or meeting with the DRO.

Time limits

Once you start a family law court case, you or your partner must schedule a trial within 365 days. If your case isn't scheduled for trial in that time, the court clerk will send you and your partner a notice giving you 60 days to either:

  • a consent to a judgment or order, or
  • schedule a case conference or .

If either of you don't do anything after getting this notice, your case may be dismissed.


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