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First Appearances in Family Court

In today’s video, I will be discussing what a First Appearance is, and what the purpose of it is when either you or your spouse have started a court action.

Hello, my name is Jeffrey Hart and I am an associate at the Feldstein Family Law Group. In today’s video, I will be discussing what a First Appearance is, and what the purpose of it is when either you or your spouse have started a court action.

In some jurisdictions, the court conducts a First Appearance. This is a very short court attendance where the parties and their lawyers (if the parties have lawyers) meet to schedule the first Case Conference. At this Court attendance, the Court Clerk or Registrar will also ensure that both parties have served and filed all of their pleadings, which may include an Application, Answer and Reply, Financial Statements for both parties, and Affidavit in Support of a Claim for Custody and Access, where children are involved.

In the event that there are problems with service and filing of documents, or after having been served the responding party needs more time to respond than the timelines outlined in the Family Law Rules, usually an extension is sought and usually granted. A further first appearance is then scheduled, and if the paperwork comes in during the period between appearances, the further appearance can be waived, but this requires the consent of both parties and a judge’s permission, in the form of a Court Order. Some jurisdictions allow this with the filing of a form as opposed to a formal Court Order being required.

Please review the video blog titled ‘The Court Process- A closer examination’ for more information about these forms.

Most of the time, the First Appearance is before a court clerk or registrar. The parties rarely go before a judge at this point. Since much of this work can be done outside of court, some jurisdictions allow the parties to mutually waive the necessity for such an appearance by simply filling out a specific form, as I mentioned above. Other jurisdictions require that it be held, but the attendance of only one of the lawyers is sufficient. One lawyer acts as agent for the other if all that will be done is scheduling the Case Conference.

It is important that you attend this court date and do not brush it aside simply because it is not before a judge. If you are intimidated by the court process, it is important that you retain a lawyer to attend the First Appearance on your behalf. This will allow you to proceed to the next step in your matter which is obtaining the Case Conference date.

If both parties have retained lawyers, a First Appearance may also be a good opportunity for the parties and counsel to meet and negotiate the terms of an interim order dealing with some of the more sensitive or urgent issues in the matter, such as child support payments, until the next court date. Remember that some courts are quite back logged, and a Case Conference date given by the court clerk may be scheduled several months after the First Appearance date.

For more information regarding the court process and what it involves, please review our website at www.separation.ca or contact us for a free initial consultation at 905-415-1636. Thank you for watching.

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