When you are served with a family law Application, you are given a first court date and a 30-day deadline by which to respond by filing a document known as an Answer. The first court date is known as a First Appearance which is conducted by a clerk of the court, not a judge. The purpose of which is for the court to verify that the parties involved have filed their documents and that the matter is ready to move forward to the next court date. It is only at the next court date (which is usually a Case Conference) that substantive matters (as opposed to purely procedural matters) will be addressed.
The court has several options at its disposal, it can Order costs against you, can give you more time to file your Answer, or can allow your opposing party to have Orders made against you at an uncontested trial (meaning, without your involvement or opportunity to make your case). In the worst-case scenario, you can have substantive Orders made against you relating to issues such as custody of the child(ren), access to the child(ren), the amount that you must pay in child support (which may have little or nothing to do with your actual earning capacity). You can even be required to pay the costs Order before the court will consider you arguments when you seek to have the Order changed in a Motion to Change.
The answer is frequently YES to one degree or another. But it depends how quickly and at what phase in the proceedings you retain a lawyer and what you do to address the problem.
At or before a First Appearance (which frequently occurs weeks or months after the filing deadline) it is generally a professional courtesy that your opposing party will give you an extension of time if you ask for it; this is particularly if you hire a lawyer prior to the First Appearance. Your odds of avoiding the negative outcomes listed above further increase if you file an Answer and any other required court documents prior to the First Appearance.
If you file your documents prior to the First Appearance and are given permission for late filing, you are typically in no worse a situation than if you responded within the original 30-day filing deadline.
Waiting too long to react to a Family Law Application may cost you financially, damage your relationship with your ex and child(ren), and cause you to be required to comply with a disadvantageous court Order until the court changes it. Nonetheless, you will still typically be able to address the Orders made against you in your absence.
The best thing to do is to simply retainer a lawyer and deal with the problems as soon as possible. Along with the Answer, you will likely be required to file additional documents, such as a financial statement and an Affidavit in Support of Custody and Access. These documents, the financial statement in particular, often require you to provide supporting disclosure in order for the court to accept the filing of your Answer. These extra steps may take time and may rely on factors beyond your control, such as how long it will take you to receive tax information from the Canada Revenue Agency.
Some matters are much more simple and much less difficult to resolve than they may seem to you when you are served. Sometimes parties believe there will be major disagreement and conflict between them before they have even seriously attempted to negotiate solutions to the problems. Whatever the best strategy is to respond to your new legal matter, the sooner you retain a lawyer and begin addressing the problems with a well informed and cohesive strategy, the better your outcome is likely to be.
Nussbaum Law is a team of legal professionals who can assist with your family law matter. Speak to one of the firm members and obtain your independent legal advice today!