A How To Guide For Family Docket Court
The procedures and documents that we are able to file in preparation for an application are set out in the Alberta Rules of Court. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the court has initiated a process called Family Docket Court. All family law matters are now required to attend Family Docket Court if they wish to proceed through the court system. The purpose of Family Docket Court is to allow the Court to better manage family law matters coming into the Court.
To obtain a date for Family Docket Court you must file a Notice to Attend Docket court which is a brief pleading outlining what you hope to achieve by attending Family Docket Court. Currently, all appearances are being done via virtual courtroom.
Following attendance at Family Docket Court you will receive a Family Docket Court Endorsement which outlines the procedure and steps you must attend to attempt to resolve your matter which may include attending: Morning Chambers, Resolution Counsel, an Early Intervention Case Conference (EICC), a Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR), Special Chambers, a Trial or simply submitting a Desk Application.
The procedures and documents that we are able to file in preparation for a morning chambers application are set out in the Alberta Rules of Court.
At the morning chambers hearing, both counsel will have a brief 10-minute opportunity to relay the relevant facts to the Justice and argue the merits of the case. The Justice will render a decision after both counsel have made their submissions. Ultimately, a Court Order will be generated in accordance with the decision rendered by the Justice. You will be provided with a filed copy of that document.
Resolution Counsel are trained lawyers employed by the Court to help parties with a family issue reach an agreement by consent or prepare a litigation plan for Court.
Parties who are being referred to Resolution Counsel will be provided a date in Docket Court for a 1-2.5 hour meeting with Resolution Counsel. If it appears that the issues are close to being resolved by the parties during the meeting with Resolution Counsel, a second meeting may be scheduled to achieve an agreement. The agreement may be turned into a binding Consent Order by the Court. At the end of the meeting, a report will be prepared by Resolution Counsel and available to the Justice sitting in Family Docket Court.
Early Intervention Case Conference
The Early Intervention Case Conference will take place in a courtroom for one hour. Where in-person attendance is not available, you will be provided with a link for participation by video.
The goals of the Early Intervention Case Conference are:
- to see if you and the other party can settle some of the matters that you have not been able to resolve;
- to talk about options to settle your matters in a way that may not be available to you in a more formal court proceeding;
- if settlement is not possible, to hear what the Judge thinks about the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the other party’s case, and to hear what the Judge thinks might happen if your matters have to go to a more formal court proceeding or a trial;
- if settlement is not possible, to try to reduce the number of matters that have to go to a more formal court proceeding or trial; or
- if settlement is not possible, to talk about how the cost and time the court proceeding or trial will take can be reduced as much as possible.
Judicial Dispute Resolution
Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR) is a confidential pre-trial settlement conference led by a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench. The objective of a JDR is to resolve the dispute so a trial will be either unnecessary, or at most limited to those issues on which the parties do not agree. The parties meet with Justice to confidentially discuss the background of the case and what the parties feel is important in the case. The participants will then discuss possible solutions. If no agreement is reached, the Justice may give a non-binding opinion of what decision they would make if this case and these facts were presented at trial. The Justice’s non-binding opinion may help the parties and their lawyers reach a resolution without having to go to trial. A settlement is only reached if everyone agrees. At this time, binding JDRs are not available.
A Domestic Special is a type of chambers hearing that is meant to resolve an issue or issues as between the date of the Special hearing and the date of trial. As such, any judgment that is rendered at a Domestic Special chambers hearing is an interim or temporary court order.
At a Domestic Special hearing, both counsel will have the opportunity to argue the merits of their case before the Justice. Although the Justice can reserve his/her decision (take time to consider it and render a decision at a later date), generally a decision is rendered that afternoon. Ultimately, a Court Order will be generated in accordance with the decision rendered by the Justice. You will be provided with a filed copy of that document.
A desk application is a process of written submissions. The submissions will be reviewed by a Justice and a decision will be rendered based on the written evidence provided.
If you are going through a separation and need legal advice, connect with us today to learn more.