Family Law


“When an urgent motion or a case conference is being requested for a new matter where an Application has not yet been issued, should counsel email the Application, Form 35.1 and Financial Statement with the motion or case conference materials or do they still need to issue the Application at the courthouse first?

Alternatively, can counsel undertake to issue the Application and other documents when Court operations resume?”



With respect to the Superior Court of Justice:

  • Where possible, counsel are encouraged to send the Application first to the court to be issued by use of MAG’s generic email address for the particular location.  Materials relating to the urgent request should also be sent to the trial coordination email account with a notation that the application is in the process of being issued.  Where truly necessary, counsel may send only the urgent materials via the TC email address with a request that the matter be heard on the undertaking that the application will be issued at the first available opportunity.  Judges continue to have discretion to permit urgent requests to proceed on this basis.

With respect to the Ontario Court of Justice:

  • If there are no applications already before the court, 2 scenarios can occur:
    • either the moving party also wishes to bring an urgent motion; or
    • the moving party does not intend on bringing an urgent motion

If an urgent motion is to be brought,

    • then the Application and supporting documents need to be filed by email as per the directive; or
    • in the 14B motion, an order could be requested asking for the Application and supporting documents to be filed at a later date and along with a proposed filing deadline.

If an urgent motion is not to be brought, than the matter should not be filed at this time.  Note that if a case conference request is not an urgent/priority matter, the Application and supporting documents should not be filed at this time.

“Will uncontested divorces be processed? Many “consent” divorces are done on an uncontested basis because it is actually simpler than a consent divorce.”

Most regions are not processing uncontested or joint divorces at this time, subject to situations of urgency.  Local law associations may wish to seek clarity on this issue from their RSJs. Even in the limited regions where the judges have the capacity to review these requests during the period of suspended normal activity, it is unclear to what extent MAG and the Federal government can ensure that all necessary steps are completed before these applications can be reviewed by the court.

“For Central West specifically, the new practice direction requires parties to submit a 2 page letter requesting that an urgent matter be heard. For new matters, should the Application and Form 35.1 be sent with the 2 page letter, or should counsel simply indicate in the letter that it is a new matter and await direction from the judge? Additionally, should the letter be served on the other side? If so, does the other side have an opportunity to provide a 2 page letter of their own in response?”

For new matters, it is recommended that counsel include a copy of the application with this request and that it be served on the other party, unless relief is being sought on an ex parte basis.

“What does the expansion mean for conferences that were scheduled before the shutdown and have not yet been adjourned to a new date?  If the parties consent, will the court proceed with the conference (including a Trial Management Conference) by phone/video? What is the process for rescheduling case conferences (as opposed to scheduling new ones as outlined in the practice directions)?”

All conferences in family matters (not necessarily child protection matters) that are scheduled before June 2nd have been automatically rescheduled and will not proceed during this period without a new request to the court that fits within the expanded scope of activities.  Counsel should follow directions from each region regarding how those events will be rescheduled after regular operations resume. No direction has been provided yet for matters that have been scheduled from June 2nd onwards, although it is likely that at least some of the events that have been scheduled for early June will need to be rescheduled to facilitate rescheduling courts.

“Can applications be filed at the Superior Court of Justice in family matters?”



Yes, ideally through the generic MAG email accounts listed in the April 6 notices to the profession.  However, the Court is not encouraging the filing of regular applications at this time, just ones where requests are being made for relief during the period of suspended activity.  Joint or simple uncontested divorces can also be filed through MAG’s e-filing portal.

“Given significant concerns about COVID-19, what steps are being taken to ensure that courthouses are a safe environment for counsel and clients to attend?”

The Chief Justice has issued a directive regarding court operations for criminal and family matters, which are to go into effect in courthouses by 7 pm Friday, March 27. You can read the directive here.

“How should lawyers deal with court orders that impose filing deadlines in family law matters?”

As described in this SCJ Notice to the Profession, urgent filings may be filed by e-mail to the listed trial coordinator. See this Notice that that emails received at or after 4:30 pm will be addressed the following business day.

As described in this SCJ Notice to the Profession, non-urgent filings may continue to occur at courthouses. However, where procedural rules or court orders require the regular filing of documents during this emergency period, and it becomes impossible to file at the courthouse or the courthouse is believed to be unsafe, parties can expect the Court to grant extensions of time once the Court’s normal operations resume. Parties must still comply with orders/rules requiring the service or delivery of documents as between parties.

“Must an existing order for access be strictly followed during the state of emergency, where families are being told to stay home?”

For urgent matters, filings may be filed by e-mail to the listed trial coordinator. See this Notice that that emails received at or after 4:30 pm will be addressed the following business day. Teleconferences and in some circumstances video conferences are being arranged for matters with approval of the local triage judge.

However, as some of these issues may not meet the court’s direction on urgency, lawyers are encouraged to consider other appropriate alternatives, e.g. Mediation and parenting coordination where an acceptable agreement cannot be reached between the parties. 

How do lawyers determine what qualifies as an “urgent” matter?

This SCJ Notice to the Profession, describes urgent and emergency matters in family and child protection matters.

“Can proposed Orders submitted pursuant to a Justice’s Endorsement with the consent of all parties be filed with the Court electronically or otherwise?”

For urgent matters, counsel are encouraged to file draft orders, which can be signed by the judge hearing the matter, and sent back to the parties signed electronically. Counsel should seek direction from the judge to ensure the timely issuance of the order.

“Can lawyers currently book conferences and motions even though part of the Court’s operations are suspended?”

Counsel are advised to contact their local trial coordination office regarding scheduling protocols in their region.

“Since the courts are not dealing with non-urgent matters at present, will the Ministry suspend the issuance of administrative dismissal notices and dismissal orders?”

MAG confirms it has issued a direction to court staff to suspend the issuance of administrative dismissal notices and dismissal orders for:

  • OCJ family court proceedings
  • SCJ family court proceedings
  • Small Claims Court matters
  • SCJ Civil proceedings

The suspension applies to all courts across all regions.