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:
A Judicial Case Conference (JCC) is a private, informal one-hour meeting with a Supreme Court judge or master and your spouse (and your lawyers if you have them).
It gives you and your spouse a chance to talk about your family law issues to see if you can agree about how to solve any of them before you go to court. And if you all decide that you need to go to court to sort things out, you can talk about the best way to move forward.
You don't need to take a lawyer with you to a JCC.
Do you and your spouse have to go to a JCC?
You have to go to a JCC before you can file a notice of application and affidavit (called a Chambers application), unless you're asking for a court order:
- that your spouse agrees to (this is called a consent order),
- without giving notice to your spouse (that is, you're not telling them that you're asking for the order),
- that says you and your spouse "have no reasonable prospect of reconciliation,"
- to change a final order (also known as a variation application),
- that stops one spouse from getting rid of property (for example, selling or mortgaging it) that might also belong to the other spouse,
- to set aside or replace an agreement, or
- to change or set aside a parenting coordinator's decision.
You can ask the court to excuse you from going (that is, you won't need to go) to a JCC if:
- your family matter is urgent and needs to be solved quickly,
- the judge thinks it's too soon to have a JCC,
- it would be unfair or inappropriate to have a JCC,
- it could be dangerous to your health or safety to delay your application or to go to a JCC with your spouse, or
- the judge or master decides there are good enough reasons to excuse you.
To find out how to apply to be excused from a JCC, see Step 1 of Request a Judicial Case Conference.
You can also ask for a JCC at any time before you go to trial. It's a good way for you and your spouse to try to sort things out with the judge's help.
How do you prepare for a JCC?
See our guide Request a Judicial Case Conference for how to prepare for a JCC.
What happens at a JCC?
A JCC is more informal than a court hearing. You might be in:
- a conference room, sitting around a table with your spouse, your lawyers (if you have them), and the judge or master, or
- a more traditional courtroom, sitting around a table or sitting behind the judge's bench with the judge.
You won't have to stand up, and the judge or master won't be wearing their robes.
Even if you have a lawyer, the judge or master will ask you to speak. They'll probably start by finding out what you and your spouse agree on and what you don't agree on.
At the JCC, the judge or master can:
- see which issues need to be decided;
- look at which issues they can help settle;
- mediate between you on any issues you can't agree on;
- make any orders that you both agree to (consent orders);
- suggest you contact a private family dispute resolution professional who might be able to help, like a mediator or parenting coordinator;
- send you to a family justice counsellor, Parenting After Separation class, or child support officer;
- make orders about the process, including when things should happen (for example, when court hearings and exchanges of information will happen and what information you need to give each other); or
- give a non-binding opinion (this is the judge's opinion only, and it can't be legally enforced) about your issues.
A JCC is confidential (private), so don't worry about other people finding out about your issues.
What happens if one person doesn't show up for the JCC?
If you or your spouse doesn't show up for the JCC, the judge or master can still do all the things listed above if they think that:
- there are good enough reasons to go ahead, and
- it's fair to do so even though one person isn't there.
The judge or master can also order the person who didn't show up to pay the costs of the person who did come.
Can you attend by phone?
You can ask the trial coordinator for a telephone conference, but they're not always possible.
What happens if you don't settle your case at the JCC?
If you can't agree at the JCC, the judge or master usually takes the next steps to move toward a hearing or a trial where a judge will make decisions for you.
You can't take the next steps toward a hearing or a trial until you've done what the judge has said if they ordered that:
- you try mediation or another type of family dispute resolution, or
- your child see a counsellor.
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.