Judicial Case Conference, often referred to as a JCC, is a mandatory step in your family law or divorce case in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Often, it is held at an early stage of your court case. Generally speaking, you are not allowed to bring an application to the court until you have completed and are release form the JCC program. As always, there are exceptions. For example, you may be able to bring an application before the court in advance of your Judicial Case Conference, if your matter is urgent (i.e. protection order or financial restraining order), by consent, or if, otherwise, you have the court’s permission. Our Vancouver divorce lawyers routinely go to Judicial Case Conferences (JCCs) with their client and can provide you with an insight about what to expect.
What is a Judicial Case Conference (JCC)?
Judicial Case Conference (JCC) is often a 90 minute session with a master or the judge of the court. Sometimes, it could be shorter than 90 minutes and sometimes, if the court has time, it could go for much longer. The proceedings are recorded. However, to get the transcript of the JCC, you either need a court order or the consent of other parties involved in your divorce case.
What is the purpose of the Judicial Case Conference (JCC)?
The purpose of the JCC is to give you an opportunity to see if you can settle your case with judicial assistance. You will have free and open discussion with the other party/parties. You can canvass different options to settle your case. The court may provide you feedback, if your position is reasonable or not.
The discussions – as divorce lawyers call it – are without prejudice. Without prejudice discussion means that the concessions you make at the JCC cannot be used against you later on. For example, let’s say that the issue at your case is retroactive child support and your position is that your ex owes you $20,000.00 in retroactive child support. Once you consider various factors, you are prepared to accept $10,000 in retroactive payment, if this would settle the matter. You can make that concession at the Judicial Case Conference, knowing that later on the other side cannot go to court and say well (s)he said (s)he will take $10,000 at the JCC so the order for retroactive child support should be for only $10,000.00.
However, although the offers and concessions you make at the Judicial Case Conference are without prejudice, the other side can ask for an order to get transcripts of the JCC. Therefore, it is paramount that you be polite and focus your discussions during the JCC to relevant issues (i.e. do not go off track and do not start belittling the other side, etc).
What orders can be made at the Judicial Case Conference (JCC)?
With respect to substantial issues (i.e. child support, spousal support, property division, and parenting arrangements, etc.), the court can make any orders that all parties consent to. However, with respect to procedural issues (i.e. setting dates for discoveries or trials and dates for exchanging list of documents, etc) the court can make orders on its own motions. During your Judicial Case Conference, you can also ask the court to provide you with a non-binding opinion about the probable outcome of the case at trial or a hearing.
Here is what the Supreme Court Family Rules say about what orders can be made at the Judicial Case Conference:
7-1(15): The court may do one or more of the following at a judicial case conference:
- (a)identify the issues that are in dispute and those that are not in dispute and explore ways in which the issues in dispute may be resolved without recourse to trial;
- (b)make orders to which all the parties consent;
- (c)mediate any of the issues in dispute;
- (d)with the consent of the parties, refer the parties to a family dispute resolution professional, within the meaning of the Family Law Act, other than a family justice counsellor;
- (e)refer the parties to a family justice counsellor, or to a person designated by the Attorney General to provide specialized support assistance, if the court has received written advice from the regional manager that the family justice counsellor or designated person is readily available to the parties;
- (f)direct a party to attend the Parenting after Separation program operated by the Family Justice Services Division (Justice Services Branch), Ministry of Attorney General;
- (g)make orders respecting amendment of a pleading, petition or response to petition within a fixed time;
- (h)make orders requiring that particulars be provided in relation to any matter raised in a pleading;
- (i)make orders respecting discovery of documents;
- (j)make orders respecting examinations for discovery;
- (k)direct that any or all applications must be made within a specified time;
- (l)reserve a trial date for the family law case or reserve a date for a trial that is restricted to issues defined by the parties;
- (m)set a date for a trial management conference under Rule 14-3;
- (n)make any orders that may be made at a trial management conference under Rule 14-3 (9);
- (o)without hearing witnesses, give a non-binding opinion on the probable outcome of a hearing or trial;
- (p)without limiting any other orders respecting timing that may be made under this subrule, make orders respecting timing of events;
- (q)adjourn the judicial case conference;
- (r)direct the parties to attend a further judicial case conference at a specified date and time;
- (s)make any procedural order or give any direction that the court considers will further the object of these Supreme Court Family Rules.
How can I schedule a JCC?
To schedule your Judicial Case Conference:
- go to the Supreme Court Scheduling Website
- in the drop-box menu, select the registry in which your case was started. Write down the Scheduling phone number, you will need to contact them later.
- You need to scroll down the page, and click on the link for Judicial Case Conference Available Dates
- Pick the date and time that works for you.
- Contact the Scheduling to book the JCC.
- To confirm that the JCC is proceeding, you also need to file and serve the other parties with a Filed copy of the Notice of Judicial Case Conference (Form F19). If you do not file your Notice of Judicial Case Conference, the JCC will not proceed.
Here are few things that you need to keep in mind before booking a JCC and filing your notice of JCC:
- Any party to the case can request a Judicial Case Conference.
- It is courteous to give the other side notice that you intend to schedule a Judicial Case Conference (JCC) and schedule the JCC at a mutually agreeable day and time.
- If you choose to unilaterally set the Judicial Case Conference (JCC) date, you need to file and serve your Notice of Judicial Case Conference, you need to give 30 days advance notice to the other side. Notice is effected when you file and serve your Notice of Judicial Case Conference.
- There is no limit to how many Judicial Case Conferences you can have in your case. Sometimes, if the court is of the view that it is premature to release the parties from the Judicial Case Conference program, the court would not release you from the JCC program. You will, therefore, need to schedule another JCC.
Do I need to attend the Judicial Case Conference (JCC)? What Happens if I do not attend?
Yes, yes and yes. Attendance at the Judicial Case Conference is mandatory. If you cannot attend in person, you can ask the court for permission to attend by telephone. To request the court to attend via telephone, you need to file a telephone requisition. Make sure you file your telephone requisition in advance of the scheduled JCC and no later than one business day before the JCC. If the court does not give you permission to attend via telephone, you need to attend the JCC in person.
How do I prepare for my JCC?
Here are few steps that you may want to take to prepare for your JCC:
- Review the filed Notice of Family Claim, filed Response to Notice of Family Claim, filed Counterclaim, and filed Response to Counterclaim. Find the points that you can agree on.
- Review any other pleadings that have been filed. Review the filed financial statements. Make a schedule of the assets that are subject to division and the debts that needs to be divided.
- Prepare a list of issues that you would like to discuss at the JCC.
- Prepare a list of documents that you need from the other side in order to come to an agreement or to prove your case.
- Write down your speaking notes so that you are focused on the issues at stake.
- Educate yourself about what the law is and what applies to your case.
Do I need a lawyer for the Judicial Case Conference (JCC)?
You do not need a lawyer to attend the JCC with you. However, we strongly recommend that either you have a lawyer with you at your JCC or speak with a lawyer before your JCC. You are much better off, if you know your rights and obligations before the JCC. Our seasoned divorce lawyers at Nasser Allan LLP routinely go to JCCs with their clients and they have often obtained great results at JCCs. Contact us, if you need help with your Judicial Case Conference.