Backlog in the Ottawa family court

March 9, 2017

I have to comment on this, as it is a significant issue that MUST be taken into account by every separating spouse when considering which course of action to take in resolving their family law dispute.

As of today (March 9, 2017), there are long wait lists for virtually every court step in a family law proceeding, in Ottawa (I cannot comment on the wait lists in other jurisdictions).

Your first court date upon issuance of the application is the FCDC, and the wait is 8 weeks.

To get a case conference date, you have to wait 11 weeks.

To get a short motion (less than 1.5 hours), the wait is 10 weeks. For a motion longer than that, the wait is 17 weeks.

The wait for a settlement conference is an astounding 3 1/2 months.

Once you have a settlement conference, the wait for a trial date is approximately 9 months.

So, from start to finish, the minimum time from the issuance of an application to the trial date is easily over 1.5 years. And this assumes that the date for the next step in the proceeding is scheduled immediately upon completion of the step that you have reached (that is, for example, that you immediately schedule the settlement conference right after the case conference).  That doesn’t happen. There is inevitably a delay in setting the settlement conference date, in order to wait for the completion of the exchange of financial disclosure, the completion of a custody and access assessment, etc.

Clients absolutely need to be aware of these timelines and seriously consider them, before instructing their lawyer to start court proceedings.