1. Fill out your forms

The forms you fill out depend on the type of conference you have and on which court is hearing your case. You should ask the if you have to fill out any court forms and, if you do, which ones they are

Before a or a “to be spoken to” (TBST) court appearance, you usually don't have to prepare any documents. But sometimes you may have to. Read your court papers or conference notice to see if you need to prepare documents.

Before a , you might need to fill out Form 17D: Settlement Conference Brief.

Before a , you might need to fill out Form 17E: Trial Management Conference Brief. In some courts, you fill out a Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form instead.

Both the Form 17D and Form 17E ask for:

  • information about your family, including how long a (CAS) has been caring for your child if they've been doing this
  • the issues you and CAS agree on
  • the issues you and CAS don't agree on
  • the issues you want to talk about at the conference and the facts you think the judge needs to know
  • your ideas on how you and CAS can agree on the issues

If there are procedural issues, which are things that help your case move forward, you list them for the judge in your conference brief. For example, the judge can set a deadline for you and CAS to share documents.

The Trial Scheduling Endorsement Form also asks for some information that can help you prepare for trial. For example, it asks for your list of witnesses.

Get legal help

Before your conference, talk to a lawyer who has worked on child protection cases. They can give you advice about what might happen at the conference and help you through the process. They can help you get the best possible results for your family.

You can apply for a legal aid certificate to get Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) to pay for your lawyer.  Your income must be low enough for you to qualify.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers offer “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 might be able to find legal help in other places.  You don't need a lawyer to go to court or reply to CAS, but it's best to get one.

In some situations, a parent has the right to a lawyer to make sure that their court case with the CAS is fair. In those situations, a court can order the government to pay for that parent's lawyer through Legal Aid Ontario. This doesn't happen in most cases.

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