How Ontario’s Courts Have Responded To COVID-19
There’s no doubt that the emergence and the response to COVID-19 has upended and shaken the lives of everyone in Ontario. Institutions that we rely on through our day-to-day lives, including courts, have either shut down completely or limited their services. Ontario’s courts are no exception. We wanted to take some time today to share the latest. Please be advised that the information presented below could change at any time. We encourage you to check in on the latest news directly if needed.
Most court matters have been adjourned
For the most part, if you have a matter before Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice, your court appearances will be postponed. The courts are closed for all criminal and family matters that are not urgent. People with previously scheduled appearances between now and May 29 have been asked not to attend, though the courts would like people to request an adjournment. Information on how to do so can be found here.
What matters are still being heard?
For family law the following urgent matters are still being heard on a prioritized basis:
- 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);
- 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;
- Dire issues regarding the parties’ financial circumstances including, for example, the need for a non-depletion order; and
- In a child protection case, all urgent or statutorily mandated events including the initial hearing after a child has been brought to a place of safety, and any other urgent motions or hearings.
Others are also being heard, including:
- Regularly scheduled bail courts, remand and plea courts for in-custody proceedings;
- Plea court for urgent out-of-custody matters;
- Applications under the Health Protection and Promotion Act; and
- Urgent and/or essential intake court functions.
The courts have indicated that they plan on developing some kind of plan to allow them to resume operations. A statement from Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice stated, “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.”
We will be sure to update our readers on any other developments as we become aware of them.
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