By now everyone in Canada has had their life impacted in some way by COVID-19. Institutions across the country are either closed or operating in a reduced capacity, and Ontario’s courts are no exception. Today, we’d like to take a moment to let our readers know what the situation is at this time.

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice

In general, the courts are asking people to stay away from courthouses if they have been asked to self-isolate.  Furthermore, all matters for both criminal and family law that are not urgent are postponed. If you had a previously scheduled appeared between now and May 29, 2020, you are being asked not to attend court. This includes all family trials, criminal trials, and preliminary inquiries. If you did have a scheduled appearance, the courts are requesting people to request an adjournment. Your lawyer can help you with this, and more information on how to do so can be found here.

What is open?

The courts have indicated that judicial officials will remain available to preside over the following proceedings:

  • regularly scheduled bail courts, remand and plea courts for in-custody proceedings;
  • plea court for urgent out-of-custody matters;
  • urgent family proceedings;
  • applications under the Health Protection and Promotion Act; and
  • urgent and/or essential intake court functions.

The courts have indicated they are working on developing some kind of plan to resume operations, writing last week “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.”

What is an urgent family proceeding?

On March 20, the courts issued a statement about what constitutes an urgent family proceeding. These matters will still proceed on a prioritized basis:

  • Child, Youth and Family Services Act: place of safety hearings (s. 90); temporary care and custody hearings (s. 94), restraining orders (s. 137), status review hearings (s. 113), and secure treatment orders (s. 161);
  • Domestic matters: urgent custody/access motions; motions for restraining orders; Hague applications and non-Hague abduction cases; and
  • Family Responsibility and Support Arrears Enforcement Act: refraining motions (s. 35).

In addition, it should be noted that the Family Law Rules permit conferences and/or motions by telephone and/or video conference.

At Jason P. Howie, we are continuing to work through the COVID-19 challenge. We are following the advice of the provincial government and local health authorities and working in a combination of our homes and the office, utilizing video conferencing wherever possible. You can read more about our operating plan here.

Please keep in mind that this information is subject to change at any time. You can check here for the latest, and we will be sure to share any developments with our readers. To learn more and to discuss your legal needs with a Windsor family law lawyer, call 519.973.1500 or contact us online. We serve clients in Windsor, Essex County and throughout the region.