Court operations during COVID-19Because of COVID-19, many conferences, hearings, and proceedings are being held by phone or videoconference at this time. For more information, see:
After the other person (the law calls them the other party) has filed an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 3) and the other person has filed a Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 6), the registry will send you instructions on how to sign up for a family management conference (FMC).
An FMC is a hearing with you, the other party, a Provincial Court judge, and your lawyers (if you have them). You'll be in a courtroom or a conference room, depending on what space is available at the court that day.
The point of the FMC is to try to settle any parenting, support, or other family law issues without going to court for a full hearing. It's an important meeting, so take it seriously. The judge can make interim and final orders that could affect your life in big ways. And it might be hard to get them changed later.
Even if no final agreement is reached and you have to have a hearing, an FMC can help get you ready for your hearing or trial.
You might only have 20 minutes with the judge, so it's important to give lots of detail and to be as clear as possible when you fill in:
- Form 3, if you're the person starting the case, or
- Form 6, if you've been served with a Form 3.
What orders can the judge make?
At an FMC the judge can make certain orders. They can make:
- interim orders or consent final orders about:
- parenting responsibilities,
- parenting time,
- child support,
- spousal support, and
- case management orders to prepare for next steps including, for example:
- financial disclosure orders,
- orders for dispute resolution, or
- making changes to how documents can be served on each person; and
- conduct orders (tells a person if they can or can't do certain things).
The judge can also schedule court appearances and order:
- consensual dispute resolution,
- another FMC,
- a family settlement conference,
- a trial preparation conference, or
- a hearing or a trial.
What do you need to bring to an FMC?
At an FMC, the judge will have all the documents you've already filed. They'll use these plus oral evidence (what you say at the FMC) to make orders.
If you have other evidence you think might be useful, you can bring it to the FMC and the judge can use it to make an order.
Even if you and the other person are unhappy with the order, you still have to obey it.
What happens If someone doesn't file a reply or show up for the FMC?
If one party doesn't file a reply to an application or come to the FMC:
- the FMC can still go ahead with just one party there, and
- the judge can still make interim orders.
The other person still has to obey the orders, even if they weren't there when they were made. But they can make an application to change any orders they don't agree with.
How to prepare for a family management conference
At a family management conference a judge can make interim orders even if you don't agree with them.
Here are some tips to help you get ready for your FMC.
- A few days before your FMC, read all the documents that you and the other party have filed. Don't wait until the last minute.
- Print our checklist and use it to help you remember everything you want to say. Use only the sections that apply to your situation.
- Talk to duty counsel or a lawyer about the orders you want to check that they're reasonable and allowed under the Family Law Act.
- If you're feeling very nervous about the FMC, take some time to write down what you plan to say and practise reading it. Take this script to the FMC. It's okay if you read it to the judge.
- If you're not taking a lawyer to the FMC, think about taking a support person.
Here are some tips to help you when you're at your FMC.
- Take a break and speak to your support person before you agree to anything.
- If you don't find a way to ask the judge not to make orders, they might make orders without hearing your side of the story. If you're feeling too scared or stressed to speak, ask for a break to talk to duty counsel. Say, "I have important information to share but I'm feeling too scared and overwhelmed to tell my side of the story. Can I please have a break to talk to duty counsel?"
- If you can't find duty counsel or you still feel too stressed to share your information, tell the judge, "I am asking you to not make any orders today, and to order another FMC where I can bring a lawyer. I have important information that you should know but I am not able to tell it to you today."
You may want to read Settlement Smarts, a publication from The National Self-Represented Litigants Project.
Note that the publication is for those involved in both family matters and civil lawsuits.
Shaney learns how important it is to prepare for a family management conference, in our short illustrated story, A conference rehearsal.