What’s Going on in The Family Courts?
With COVID-19 still lingering, what will be happening with the family court processes now and what will happen going forward? This is a tough time for everyone especially for those involved in the court system.
Here`s a condensed version of what`s happening in family court right now.
All hearings are being heard on Zoom or JVN (Justice Video Network) with the justice, counsel and clients attending remotely. Court clerks assist with set up and arrangement of files in the courtroom; for judges clerks are the only staff – along with office staff – in the buildings.
The Courthouses are now open between 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday to Friday to accept paper filing in exceptional circumstances.
The majority of Court documents should all be filed electronically. Once the court documents are filed online, there’s no need to file a further paper copy. Keep that copy for your records. Here is the link to all courthouses email addresses: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/courthouse-email-addresses/
The Family Submissions Online portal provides a simple method to file electronic family court documents see: www.ontario.ca/familyclaims for more information.
After August 6, 2020 the above ways are the best way to submit any documents and requests to the courts. You should only go into the courts if you are unable to file online. There are staff there to monitor reasons for entry.
Beginning September 28, 2020, family law matters will no longer be administratively adjourned because of COVID-19. Parties and counsel whose matters have been previously administratively adjourned and have not proceeded to a hearing before a judge since March 16, 2020 must participate remotely in the next scheduled appearance date set by the court unless otherwise ordered by a judge. If a party and/or counsel do not participate in the remote scheduled hearing or do not seek an order granting a further adjournment of the matter, the matter may be dismissed without further notice.
The Ontario Court of Justice will also begin resuming all hearing all Applications, Motions to Change, and Family Responsibility Office (FRO) matters.
The Ministry of the Attorney General has put out a two- phase reopening plan to the public. Family Law matters are expected to resume September 14, 2020. The first phase began on July 6, 2020. The courthouses that were reopened in July were: Brampton, Brantford, Milton, Orangeville, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, 311 Jarvis Street, 47 Sheppard Avenue East, Chatham, Guelph, Owen Sound, Sarnia and Windsor. The courthouses expected to open On September 14th 2020 for phase two are: Cochrane, Gore Bay, Haileybury, Parry Sound, Timmins, Dryden, Fort Frances, Kenora, Goderich, Stratford, Walkerton and Woodstock. The targeted completion date of all remaining courthouses reopening will be on November 1, 2020. This sounds like good news!
Although it may seem like the family court trials are going to be further backed up because of COVID-19, the answer is not so much. The courts have advised online that litigants should try to use mediation, or to try to resolve their issues themselves. This is great news for mediators!
The Ministry of the Attorney General – Court Services is implementing health and safety measures in all courthouses. More information about all of the health and safety measures that will be happening at the courthouses when they open, implemented by the Ministry of the Attorney General – Court Services, at the courthouses when they open, is available on the following website: COVID-19: Reopening courtrooms.
What’s new! Have you heard of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court? (IDV Court). This is a streamlined court for domestic violence cases for accused persons not in custody that also have a family law related matter. This court is located only at 311 Jarvis Street and sits every Friday. See more information about this court and its Practice Direction here: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/integrated-domestic-violence-court
Check out all of the future updates for what`s happening in family courts at https://www.ontariocourts.ca/ocj/covid-19/covid-19-family-matters/