The Early Intervention Case Conference
In response to the increasing number of self-represented Alberta family law litigants, the shortage of judges in Alberta relative to the province’s population, and the ever increasing delays of family law case hearings, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench implemented a pilot project requiring selective Early Intervention Case Conferences (EICCs). Its purpose? Promote access to justice by providing a means for families to resolve their cases efficiently and quickly in a non-adversarial judgement process.
The pilot commenced September 1, 2017 in five judicial centers – Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat – and created a roster of judges, all of whom received training in the conduct of EICCs. Regarding design, the EICC was intended to be 1 to 1.5 hours in length, take place in a Courtroom, and be a much less formal process, similar to mediation or dispute resolution. It would include two components: a procedural component, which could result in an order; and a settlement discussion component, which would be held on a ‘without prejudice’ basis. Any Orders related to substantive issues would not be granted without the consent of both parties. However, if consent was reached, the judge could have the order immediately entered on the record. If no consent order was reached, the judge could make procedural orders to move the matter forward in the most expeditious manner possible.
The EICC pilot project proved effective throughout its first year, and in August of 2018, the Court of Queen’s Bench hired the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family to evaluate the initiative. What the evaluation found matched the experience of many involved firsthand: the EICC works. In 20.4% of EICC’s, all family law issues in dispute were resolved and resulted in a final order. 32.5% resulted in all issues being settled in either a final or interim order. 28.2%, were partially resolved, and in only 14.6% of cases was there no resolution. Beyond the statistics, many found the level of conflict with their spouse or partner decreased after the EICC was held and, in some cases, a resolution was achieved without judicial input.
Due to the success of the pilot, the EICC has become an ongoing option in Alberta’s family law system. If you would like to know more about what it can do for you, give our Legal Navigator a call at Coach My Case.