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The rapid spread of COVID-19 has resulted in a significant change in the day-to-day lives of all Canadians. Jobs, childcare, school, and almost every other facet of life has been impacted. The judicial system is no exception. Family law is no exception to this.
Suspension of services as Ontario Superior Court of Justice
The province’s Superior Court of Justice suspended all regular operations on Tuesday, March 17, with the suspension to last for an undetermined length of time. The Ontario Courts website stated that all criminal, family, and civil matters scheduled to be heard after March 17 are adjourned. For the most part, people scheduled to appear before the court have been advised to stay home.
Some exceptions for family law
The suspension includes many family-related areas of law, but urgent matters are being heard on a prioritized basis. The court explained that the following urgent matters are still being heard:
- requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent (e.g., a restraining order, other restrictions on contact between the parties or a party and a child, or exclusive possession of the home);
- urgent issues that must be determined relating to the well-being of a child including essential medical decisions or issues relating to the wrongful removal or retention of a child;
- dire issues regarding the parties’ financial circumstances including for example the need for a non-depletion order;
- in a child protection case, all urgent or statutorily mandated events including the initial hearing after a child has been brought to a place of safety, and any other urgent motions or hearings
In addition to that limited list, conferences and/or motions are still permitted to be heard by telephone or video conferencing.
What do I do if I am involved in a non-urgent matter?
If you had a court date scheduled for a non-urgent matter, you can expect for an adjournment of 8-12 weeks. The courts have advised that even if a date had been scheduled, there is no need to attend court.
While the situation is rapidly developing, with news emerging almost daily, it appears as though the courts are working on a plan to resume regular operations.
“In the weeks ahead, the Court will finalize a plan to resume regular operations. We anticipate the establishment of a Return to Operations (RO) Scheduling Court, where matters that have been adjourned will be rescheduled. We will strongly encourage counsel and parties to consent to future hearing dates. Should an appearance before the RO Scheduling Court be required, matters will likely be heard by teleconference.”
However, that notice was written three days ago, and a lot has happened since. We will be sure to update our readers if and when that happens.
At Gelman & Associates, we understand that this is an uncertain and stressful time. We are here to help you in your time of need. Contact us to learn how our experienced family law lawyers can help protect your rights and assets during a separation, divorce or any other family law matter. In order to be available to clients and prospective clients, our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 8 PM. Call us at 1-844-769-0737 or contact us online for a confidential initial consultation.