What is a settlement conference in my family case and what happens at one?

The goal of a is to help you and your partner settle the issues you still don't agree on. Every conference is a chance for you to get closer to agreeing on your issues with your partner.

Combined conferences

A judge may schedule a settlement conference if you and your partner haven't resolved your issues after one or more case conferences.

Starting August 1, 2021, if you and your partner have tried family mediation, a judge can sometimes allow you to move directly to a combined and settlement conference. Mediation can be tried before going to court or any time after a court case is started. Every family court in Ontario offers subsidized mediation services.

You and your partner must also have:

Because you have already discussed your issues and shared financial statements, you can skip the case conference steps of the family court process. If the judge hasn't already combined the conferences, you or your partner can ask for this by bringing a Form 14B: Motion. You will need to fill out the forms required for a settlement conference.

Get ready for your conference

There are Family Law Rules that tell you what is needed at every step in a court case. Rule 17: Conferences tells you what you need to do to prepare for your settlement conference and what happens at one.

Keep enough time in your schedule for your conference. You should plan to spend at least half a day in court. While conferences generally take about an hour, the judge may ask you and your partner to take time to discuss and try to resolve your issues.

Get legal help

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you with your settlement conference. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide “unbundled services” or “limited scope retainer” services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

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Special arrangements

If you need an interpreter or any special arrangement because of a disability, ask for special arrangements.

You can speak with any staff member at court or the Accessibility Coordinator at the courthouse about what you need.

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