Family Management Conference: The first court appearance no matter what registry you go to is now called a Family Management Conference. It will not be scheduled until you have completed the required early resolution steps, if any. It is essentially a meeting with you, the other party and a judge but you can have a lawyer present as well. FMCs are held in open court (or an open conference room) which means other people can watch. The purpose of the family management conference is to see what issues can and cannot be resolved without going to a full hearing and to make sure the case moves forward smoothly. You can have a lawyer or support person present if you want.
At the FMC, the judge can make:
- interim orders (even without your consent) and final consent orders about parenting issues (time and responsibilities), contact, financial support, and guardianship
- case management order to help the case proceed smoothly such as financial disclosure orders, making changes to documents, or send you to dispute resolution
- conduct orders which provide directions on how parties can behave or communicate with each other
All these orders can have a major impact on your case so it is important to be prepared.
The meeting should take between 30 and 60 minutes. If there are still issues that need to be resolved at the end of the family management conference, the judge will direct the next steps in the case which could involve a mediation, another conference, or trial date. To learn more read Family management conferences in Provincial Court and What can I expect at a Family Management Conference?
Once you have confirmed you have fulfilled any early resolution requirements, the registry will send you instructions on how to sign up for an FMC. If a party does not file a reply or fails to attend, the FMC will go on without them and the judge can still make interim orders which both parties will have to follow. The party that did not attend can apply later to have those orders changed if they don’t agree with them.
What to expect:
- FMCs can be held in a courtroom or in a conference room depending on the availability
- FMCs are in "open court" which means other people can observe if they choose
- FMCs will least 30 to 60 minutes
- A jusge can make interim orders even if one or more of the parties does not agree or does not attend
Strategy for a FMC:
- Give as much detail as you can in your Application or reply about a family law matter so the judge has a good idea of the situation ahead of the meeting
- Be prepared to tell the judge what orders you want and why : talk to a lawyer or advocate before the meeting to see if what you want is reasonable and allowed
- Have a good understanding on what order you are seeking, and what are you willing to accept if you don’t get it all
- If you are worried about forgetting something, you can write down what you want to say to the judge beforehand and then read it to the judge in the FMC
- Bring a lawyer with you if you can, or if not a support person
- Ask for a break to speak to duty counsel if you need support
- Use the FMC to get additional information. (E.g. have the judge order the disclosure of your former spouse’s finances if they haven’t given them to you)
To prepare before you attend a FCC, be sure to fill out the Family Case Conference Worksheet.