Family Court during COVID-19
The COVID-19 epidemic has disrupted many aspects of society in Ontario and court operations is no exception.
In the City of Toronto, there two different family courts: the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice. The Superior Court of Justice hears cases involving property issues and divorce. Cases not involving property issues and divorce that involve issues such as child custody, support and child protection matters are typically heard in Toronto at the Ontario Court of Justice. In several jurisdictions in Ontario, there is a unified family court where one court hears all family law cases.
Due to the COVID-19 epidemic , on March 17, 2020, the Superior Court of Justice suspended most operations throughout Ontario hearing only urgent family law matters. The Ontario Court of Justice quickly followed suit.
For non-child protection family law matters, examples of urgent family law matters include:
1. 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);
2. 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;
3. dire issues regarding the parties’ financial circumstances including for example the need for a non-depletion order.
(citation: Multani v Rana, 2020 ONSC 2433)
Courts have recognized that custody and access orders still need to be followed during the COVID-19 epidemic and strong evidence specific to the case needs to be provided in order to vary the order.
Since the court disruptions in Ontario started on March 17, 2020, courts in Ontario have tried to modernize their operations to allow for more types of cases to be heard rather than just urgent matters. The type of cases each court is willing to hear is rapidly changing and varies considerable by the type of court and court location. Courts are allowing for court filings to be done by email and for hearings to occur remotely typically by phone.
Electronic filing and remote hearings not only promote public safety in allowing for social distancing but also reduce the cost of litigation.
For an assessment of your case and when it could be heard, please phone us at 647-669-4121.