In Family Law

At some point in your family law matter you will probably get a notice from the court saying you have a Case Date.  This notice will have a date and time you have to be present in court and will likely also include a list of items you have to bring and/or a list of paperwork that must be filed and/or exchanged with the other party before your Case Date.  What’s particularly unnerving is that in most cases, the Case Date notice is not clear as to what the purpose of the proceeding is.  Why are you going to court?

  • It could be just to check in with a judge and let him or her know what is happening with your case.  This used to be referred to as a status conference, but most courts do not use that term formally anymore.
  • It could be to obtain future court dates.
  • It could be to obtain feedback from any third party assisting with your case, such as a family relations counsellor or someone appointed on behalf of your children (Guardian Ad Litem or Attorney for Minor Child).
  • It could be to actually have a hearing on any outstanding motions filed to address any issues in dispute.

The problem is you usually don’t know and calling the court usually won’t get you an answer because the person answering the phone has no way of knowing.  So, what do you do?  If you have an attorney, let he or she guide you.  It is likely they will not be 100% sure either but we attorneys deal with uncertainty often.  Let us worry about it.  If you don’t have an attorney, then do your best to be prepared for any scenario, especially a hearing.  You don’t want to show up unprepared for a hearing.

  • To the best of your ability, know the current status of your case.
  • Have the financial affidavits been filed? If so, do they need to be updated? (Hint, if there have been any significant changes in your financial accounts or income or if your financial affidavit is over three months old, then the answer is yes).
  • Have documents been requested from either party by the other? If so, when?  Has the requested information been produced?  If not, when is it due? (Hint, one normally has 60 days to produce requested information BUT there are exceptions). Does anyone plan on doing any additional discovery (do you need any further information to proceed with your case)?
  • What issues are agreed upon and what issues are in dispute? Is there an agreement on a parenting plan for any children?  If so, what is it? Are you prepared to put it in writing? If not, can you identify the nature of the disagreement?  What about finances?  Is there an agreement on the disposition of your marital home?  Do you and your spouse agree on the value of the marital home? If not, is there a plan to get an appraisal?
  • Are there any current, pending motions that the court needs to address? What are they, who filed and when?
  • Have your calendar ready when you are in court so you can respond to proposed dates that may be offered for further action on your case. Know dates that you will not be available:
  • Any upcoming vacations?
  • Any work travel?
  • Any special work assignments that require your presence?
  • Any special events (graduations, weddings, etc)?
  • Any medical procedures for you or anyone you care for?


  • Bring a pad and pen with you so you can take notes if necessary and write down dates.


  • If there are any outstanding motions, assume they are going to be heard and prepare as best you can for the hearing. Follow the instructions on the Case Date notice with regard to paperwork that must be exchanged and filed for any hearing.  Print and bring a copy of all motions with you. Prepare an outline for yourself of how you want to present/respond to the motions.  It’s easy to forget things when you are nervous. Write down any questions you want to ask the other party.  Bring any evidence you want to present with you (and extra copies) and organize it in the order you think you will need it and with regard to each motion it addresses.  If you intend to call witnesses, make sure you take the appropriate steps to make sure they are present.


  • Plan to arrive 30 minutes early to be sure you are on time.

Even with the utmost preparation, legal proceedings are often hard to navigate.  This is especially true when instructions from the court are less than clear.  Hopefully the above tips will help if and when you are faced with a Case Date notice.

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