How Do I Schedule a Judicial Case Conference for Hearing?

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Once a family law proceeding has commenced in the Supreme Court, the parties are usually required to participate in a judicial case conference (JCC). This informal meeting is facilitated by a judge or associate judge and is designed to help the parties resolve their claim, either in part or in full, through agreement.

Understanding Judicial Case Conferences[edit]

A JCC is a collaborative process aimed at dispute resolution without the need for formal court intervention. It is conducted in a private setting, off the record, and involves the parties, their lawyers (if they have them), and a judge or associate judge. The goal is to identify issues, explore settlement options, and, if necessary, establish procedural steps towards trial.

Mandatory JCCs[edit]

Except in urgent or specific circumstances outlined under Rule 7(3), a JCC must occur before any applications can be set. If an urgent matter arises, parties must seek the court's permission to hear an application before a JCC has taken place.

Before the JCC[edit]

Prior to the JCC, parties are expected to exchange financial statements as per Rules 7-1(8) to (11). This preparation is crucial for the productive discussion of issues and potential resolutions.

Initiating a JCC[edit]

To initiate a JCC, parties must:

  • File a Notice of Judicial Case Conference using Form F19.
  • Pay the applicable filing fee (currently $80).
  • Serve the notice at least 30 days before the JCC date.

What Happens at a Judicial Case Conference[edit]

A Judicial Case Conference (JCC) is a collaborative process where the judge or associate judge facilitates discussions between the parties to identify and resolve issues. The focus is on achieving a resolution through consent orders or setting the stage for trial if necessary. The JCC may result in:

  • Consent orders on matters where the parties agree.
  • Procedural orders to organize the case moving forward.
  • Non-binding judicial opinions on potential outcomes for contested issues.

Procedural orders[edit]

The judge or associate judge may issue procedural orders for:

  • Discovery processes, including setting deadlines for completion.
  • Filing and service of documents, providing clear directions for both.
  • Interim applications, scheduling dates and outlining required steps.

Trial preparation[edit]

In preparation for a possible trial, orders may include:

  • Trial management, such as witness lists and expert reports.
  • Evidence exchange, setting timelines for the submission of evidence and trial briefs.
  • Conferences, ordering pre-trial or settlement conferences to attempt resolution.

Substantive orders by consent[edit]

When parties reach an agreement, the judge or associate judge can make substantive orders on:

  • Parenting arrangements, including guardianship, parenting time, or contact with a child.
  • Support orders, detailing child or spousal support arrangements.
  • Property and debt division, outlining the agreed division of assets and liabilities.
  • Other agreements, formalizing any other substantive matters agreed upon by the parties.

Case Management Plan[edit]

The case management plan is a structured form used to guide the JCC, kind of like an agenda. It includes:

  • Issue identification: Clarifying disputed matters such as guardianship, parenting arrangements, support, and property division.
  • Resolution discussion: Exploring settlement options, mediation, reports under the Family Law Act, and the possibility of a summary trial.
  • Trial management: Reserving trial dates, setting trial management conferences, and discussing pre-trial procedures.

This plan is pivotal in ensuring the JCC is directed and effective. Parties new to the JCC should review the Case Management Plan form template beforehand for a better understanding of the process.

Confidentiality is paramount in a JCC, with the understanding that discussions and outcomes are not to be disclosed externally.

After the JCC[edit]

If the parties reach an agreement on some or all issues, the judge or associate judge may make a consent order. If no agreement is reached, the judge or associate judge will set out the next steps to move the case forward, which may include further JCCs, mediation, or preparation for trial.

Strategic Use of JCCs[edit]

JCCs can be a strategic tool in the litigation process. They offer a chance for settlement and can significantly reduce the time and cost associated with going to trial. Additional JCCs can be scheduled if needed, and in some cases, it may be possible to finalize a divorce during the JCC if the appropriate documentation is filed in advance.

More Information[edit]

For a comprehensive understanding of JCCs, refer to Rule 7-1 of the Supreme Court Family Rules and the following resources:

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Maryam Sodagar, September 19, 2023.

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