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What is a Family Management Conference?

A Family Management Conference is often your first appearance before a Provincial Court judge in your Provincial Court family law case.

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Purpose of a Family Management Conference

The purpose of a Family Management Conference is to try to resolve issues without a full hearing. However, if the issues are contested, which means you cannot agree, then the case may need to go to a hearing or trial. At the Family Management Conference, the judge will hear from both sides to figure out if there is anything the parties agree on.

Sometimes one or several issues are resolved at the Family Management Conference. Any remaining issues are dealt with at a subsequent conference or eventually a trial or hearing. If you and the other party are open to negotiating, you might consider asking for a Family Settlement Conference where are judge helps guide the conversation.

The Family Management Conference is an opportunity for the parties to get organized and for the judge to determine how the matter should proceed. For example, if a party has not filed all their financial documents, the judge could make a procedural order for the documents to be submitted within two weeks and then schedule another Family Management Conference in a month. This would allow the parties time to retrieve and review the financial documents, and maybe agree on an amount of child support. At the second Family Management Conference, the parties could ask for a consent order, which is an order when both parties agree to it. The judge would likely grant the order as long as it meets the legal requirements. The parties might not need a hearing if child support was their only issue.

Resolving disputes through a Family Management Conference is quicker and less stressful than going to a hearing. And, if you hire a lawyer, you will likely pay less legal fees for the Family Management Conference than a hearing.

A judge can make interim orders at a Family Management Conference, such as a temporary parenting schedule or an amount of child support while the parties wait for their next court date.

The types of orders that can be made at a Family Management Conference include:

consent orders

  • example: By consent, pursuant to s. 40(2) of the Family Law Act, Parent1 and Parent2 will share equally all parental responsibilities for the child as set out in s. 41 of the Family Law Act.

interim orders

    • example: In the interim and without prejudice, Parent1 is found to be a resident of British Columbia and is imputed to have a guideline annual income of $32,000.00.
    • In the interim and without prejudice, Parent1 shall pay to Parent2 the sum of $299.00 per month for the support of the child, commencing on December 1, 2022 and continuing on the first day of each and every month thereafter, for as long as the child is eligible for support under the Family Law Act or until further court order.

case management orders

    • example: Parent1 shall complete, file with the Registry of this court, and deliver to Parent2 a sworn Financial Statement in Form 4 of the Provincial Court Family Rules, including all attachments set out on page two of Form 4, by December 15, 2022.

conduct orders

    • example: The parties shall encourage their respective families to refrain from any negative comments about the other parent and his or her extended family, and from discussions in front of the child concerning family issues or litigation.

procedural orders for next steps

    • example: This matter is adjourned to a Family Management Conference on January 15, 2023 at 11 a.m.

 

Help for your Family Management Conference

There will likely be a duty counsel lawyer at the Family Management Conference or reachable by telephone. If you need to speak to a lawyer, you can ask to speak to duty counsel. It is always recommended to get legal advice before agreeing to an order in court, and you should try to speak with a lawyer before court so that you understand your rights, obligations, and the possible outcomes of your case before you are in front of the judge.

The first step to prepare for your Family Management Conference is to ensure you filed and responded with the appropriate paperwork. You should read all of the court documents in detail.

Get organized. Create a brief summary so that you can explain to the judge what the issues are and what you are asking for. The Family Management Conference is not an opportunity to get into all the details of your case. A hearing is for putting in all your evidence. To prepare for the Family Management Conference, you might write out a list of your issues and what you are asking for under each issue. If you and the other party agree on something, let the judge know so that an order can be made by consent. Judges often start with what people agree on rather than what they don’t. This helps narrow down the issues and sets a positive tone.

There may be two cases scheduled to start at the same time for a Family Management Conference, so do not expect your appearance to be private with a judge. The appearances are taking place over MS Teams telephone or videoconference. If you can connect by video, you may find it helpful as you will see the people speaking to make it easier to follow the conversation.

Prepare and test your technology setup in advance. The Provincial Court will send you a link for your Family Management Conference the morning of your court date (sometimes you will receive the link earlier, but not always). You can read the Guide for Appearing in the Provincial Court Using MS Teams

You should always speak to a lawyer for legal advice before making decisions about your case. If you qualify, you can contact duty counsel for assistance with your legal questions or you may qualify for representation through Legal Aid. The Legal Aid BC website has a list of Family Duty Counsel locations and contact information. 

You can contact the Lawyer Referral Service for a free consultation with a lawyer. You can call 1-800-663-1919 or visit the Access Pro Bono website

If you are looking for an alternative to hiring a lawyer on a full retainer that often requires a large retainer payment upfront, you can try the BC Family Unbundling Roster. You can read more about Unbundled legal services in my blog post

To prepare further, read the article from the Provincial Court of BC website titled, “What can I expect at a Family Management Conference?”

If you want to read more examples of the wording of court orders, look at the Family Law Act Orders Picklist found on the Courthouse Library BC website. The picklist is in Microsoft Word format and you may hear the judge refer to it at your Family Management Conference when he or she reads the terms of the court order.

It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen at court. Being organized and prepared will help you to respond to questions from the judge and make efficient use of the court time. Limit your expectations as you may not get what you are asking for at your first Family Management Conference. The court hears many cases, must follow certain rules, and must prioritize their time for urgent cases. Always be respectful and patient.

How to Set a Date for a Family Management Conference?

The Family Management Conference date is set after the time to file a reply has passed (30 days as per Form 6) or a reply has been filed.  If the time to reply has passed and you have not received any documents from the court, you can call the courthouse where your court action was filed to ask to set a date for a Family Management Conference. The clerk will let you know if a reply was filed or not. You can find the contact number for the courthouse using the BC Provincial Court Locations and Hours page.

If a Reply with a Counterclaim was filed, a Reply to counter application in Form 8 may need to be filed before the Family Management Conference is set. The Reply to counter application must be filed within 30 days of you being served with the Reply in Form 6.

If your case was started and more than one year has passed since any steps were taken and there was no final order made, you need to file a Notice of Intention to Proceed using Form 2. If you have met the dispute resolution requirements (ask at the courthouse if you are unsure), a Family Management Conference will be set to determine what will happen next on your file. 

If you would like to discuss your upcoming Family Management Conference with a lawyer, contact Step By Step Law for a consultation. We offer unbundled legal services to help you prepare and/or to appear with you at a Family Management Conference.

This post is for informational purposes only. If you require legal advice, please contact a lawyer

Lawyer Jamie Fitzel facing camera and smiling

Written by Jamie Fitzel, family lawyer at Step By Step Law.

Last updated/reviewed on November 23, 2022.

 

Ms. Fitzel has experience attending Family Management Conferences in various courthouses across British Columbia. She welcomes you for a consultation.