What happens at a first court date in my family court case?Updated September 1

1. Figure out if you need a first court date

There are 2 situations when you may not need to go to a first court date or meeting with a (DRO):

Family Mediation

In March 2021, new rules took effect to encourage the use of  (ADR) or family dispute resolution processes. These rules say that if it's suitable, you and your partner must think about using ADR to resolve your issues out of court. It might not be an option if:

  • you afraid of your partner because there's a history of 
  • there are serious mental health or drug abuse issues

ADR is voluntary. So, even though you must think about trying it, you cannot be forced to use it.

ADR 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.

To encourage you to try ADR, starting August 1, 2021, if you and your partner have tried family mediation, you may be able to skip your first court date or meeting with a DRO. And, a judge might also allow you to move directly to a combined and settlement conference. For more information, read the question What is a case conference in my family law case and what happens at one?

If you've tried family and the judge hasn't combined the conferences or allowed you to skip the first court date or meeting with a DRO, you or your partner can bring a Form 14B: Motion.

Level of family court

There are 3 courts that deal with family law issues in Ontario. These are the:

  • Ontario Court of Justice
  • Superior Court of Justice
  • Family Court branch of the Superior Court of Justice

You have a first court date if your case is at the:

  • Ontario Court of Justice
  • Family Court Branch of the Superior Court of Justice, unless your case also deals with a or

Cases at the Superior Court of Justice don't have a first court date.

No first court date

If your case does not have a first court date and you have not tried family mediation, you or your partner have to ask the to schedule a case conference for your case to move forward.

If you're the , the first court date was given to you when you had your Application by the court clerk. Check the front page of your Application.

If you're the , you should have been given this date in the package of documents you were served with by your partner. Check the front page of your partner's Application for the first court date.

If you're not sure which court to go to, call the family courthouse at the address that is written on the top of your court forms.

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