By Brittany Koenig, Senior Paralegal, Calgary
When you think of the emergency room at any major metropolitan hospital, the first thing that comes to mind is the sheer number of people who are standing around, waiting to be called upon and triaged by a nurse who will ultimately hear you out and then put you in another queue. Family Docket Court is essentially the same thing as it’s where family law matters go to be sorted in Calgary and Edmonton.
What happens before Docket Court?
Before scheduling Family Docket Court, it is important that you have made every reasonable effort to try and resolve your legal dispute with the other party (“reasonable” being the key word here as there are some situations, such as people dealing with domestic violence, where court is your only real option). The court wants to see earnest efforts by both parties to work it out between themselves and for litigants to try and resolve their dispute through at least one of the alternate dispute resolution processes wherever possible. Court should be your last resort.
When you’ve done all you can and you are ready to schedule a date in Family Docket Court, you should first check out the current availability on the court website to confirm what works for you and your schedule. The form requires that you select at least 4 different docket date options, which fill up very quickly. Next, reach out to the other party (or their lawyer) to let them know that you are planning to book a Family Docket Court date and to confirm what dates work best for them. The form asks you to check off that you have made reasonable attempts to try and pick dates that were agreed upon by all parties. It would also be a good idea to let the other party know what the issues are that you are planning to address at court if you haven’t done so already.
The Notice to Attend Family Docket Court is the official court form that needs to be filled in, dated, and signed by the person who is applying to the Court, also known as “the Applicant” or the Applicant’s lawyer. The form must then be filed with the court. Upon filing your document, the court clerk will review it to make sure that everything has been filled out correctly. The clerk will then stamp the upper right-hand corner of the first page of your document and will insert, on the 2nd page of your Notice to Attend, all the court details, including:
- the date and time of your Docket Court appearance
- the link and virtual courtroom information to login to Webex
- a dial-in telephone number and password if you want to join via telephone instead of video
The Applicant (or their lawyer) is then responsible to serve the other party (or their lawyer) with a copy of the complete, filed, Notice to Attend to ensure that they are notified of the upcoming Court appearance. For more information on how to serve documents within Alberta, check out our blog on the Rules of Service in Alberta.
A Day in Docket Court
Firstly, docket court is not for arguing the merits of your case. The judge will not agree to hear any of your arguments on the division of assets, or support or parenting. Docket court is only for establishing the next steps to resolve the case. This could be setting it for a trial, setting it for a date in morning chambers, or setting it for mediation.
On any given day, there could be up to 20 or more cases scheduled for the same Docket Court appearance. The clerk of the court will be in the virtual courtroom (both video and telephone) checking in each person who logs in to the courtroom. The clerk will also let each party know what number they are on the docket or queue of other cases on the list that day.
Court will be called to order, and everyone will be told who the judge is who is entering into the courtroom. Parties are generally limited to 10 minutes to share any information with the court that they think is important or in addition to what was already provided in the Notice to Attend form filed with the court. The Judge may ask a few clarifying questions from either party and then tell them what next step in the court process they are directing them to.
That next step could be any of a whole myriad of available options such as a meeting with a Dispute Resolution Officer (DRO)/Child Support Resolution (CSR) Officer, an Early Intervention Case Conference (“EICC”), a Domestic Special, etc. Their direction will then typed up into a formal court endorsement, which is just a different way of saying a court order. The endorsement will be emailed by the clerks of the court to the parties, so they have a clear record of what was ordered. The court strives to get these endorsements out as soon as practicable after the docket court appearance, but it can take anywhere from 1 to 10 business days to receive the endorsement back from the court via e-mail.
What’s next after Docket Court?
Once you receive the endorsement from the court, and if you want to proceed with your legal matter through the courts, you must proceed with whatever is ordered. Usually, the endorsement will provide you with a clear direction on what next steps need to be taken. It will include links to any relevant or necessary forms and if you were directed to schedule an appearance you will be given the contact information for the court coordinator you need to reach out to.
Throughout the process, if you are still feeling like it would be helpful to have someone give your forms a second look, or if you have questions about your legal matter, or if you want assistance clarifying your court endorsement, book your free 20-minute consultation with Coach My Case either online or over the phone. You’ll be able to consult with any one of our legal coaches or paralegal navigators who are experienced in dealing with all types of family law matters and Family Docket Court appearances.