When couples want a divorce, they often fail to realize the legal processes involved. What sounds like a simple separation can quickly turn into a difficult battle between lawyers.
If you've filed a Notice of Family Claim in B.C. Supreme Court and served your spouse, you still have a few more steps before you can be legally separated.
For example, you may decide to meet with your lawyer to forward an agreement on all contested issues with your spouse, including property division, child custody and child support, and parenting schedules. Or you and your spouse together with your lawyers may agree to meet with a mediator in an effort to resolve some or all of the outstanding issues.
If this mediation fails to produce a complete agreement, you must prepare to contest matters in court. A Judicial Case Conference is then scheduled, usually within 60 to 90 days of filing your notice of Judicial Case Conference. Both parties and their lawyers need to attend this conference.
Why Is a Judicial Case Conference Necessary?
The purpose of a Judicial Case Conference is to ensure an orderly divorce process and to give the parties an early opportunity to explore settlement. This conference is a meeting between the Judge and the litigants to see if the parties are able to settle the dispute, in whole or in part, and to determine if the case should be set for trial.
The Judge also uses this hearing to set procedural deadlines to keep your divorce case moving toward a timely resolution.
Since this conference will help you determine whether you are likely to settle issues yourself or whether you will need a trial, it is important to be prepared for your Judicial Conference. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare.
Fill Out the Necessary Forms
Prior to your hearing, ensure you have completed, filed and delivered a sworn Financial Statement of income, expenses, assets and debts.
Determine the Types of Discovery You Need
A discovery is a legal term that involves acquiring information from your spouse and third parties. It is used because each party can "discover" what is available to help advance their case.
Discoveries can include the production of documents, requests for information, and examinations under oath of potential witnesses. If you wish, your lawyer can verbally question your spouse under oath in advance of the trial at an Examination for Discovery.
In advance of your Judicial Case Conference, your lawyer will determine if any of these discovery methods are necessary to assist you in your case and if so, the Judge can order a date for their completion at your Judicial Case Conference.
Know the Facts
Judicial Case Conferences are primarily about finding the facts and knowing what you want out of your divorce case. The Judge does not decide any of the substantive issues at the Conference unless everyone agrees.
Your best preparation for a Judicial Case Conference is to have a comprehensive knowledge of your divorce and the issues that need to be resolved. If you have an experienced family law lawyer, he or she should already know the facts of your case and be able to present them to the Judge.
When in Doubt, Ask Your Lawyer for Advice
It is always prudent to seek the advice of a lawyer to determine the legal issues that need to be resolved in order to protect yourself and to understand what your legal rights and obligations may be.
You may suffer long-lasting, negative consequences if you decide to represent yourself and you do not handle your case properly. It is best to choose an experienced family law lawyer before you sign any documents or file any papers with the court.
A experienced divorce lawyer can attend the Judicial Case Conference with you, and will help you prepare your case so you can position yourself to resolve your issues fairly and as expeditiously as possible.
If you have any questions or concerns about preparing for a Judicial Case Conference, contact us by calling or by filling out our online contact form.