The Court of Québec gives parties involved in youth protection proceedings the option of taking part in a settlement conference, which is presided over by a conciliating judge.
What is a settlement conference?
A settlement conference is a method of resolving disputes that allows the interested parties (the Director of Youth Protection, the child, and the parents) to resolve their youth protection dispute in a more amicable setting and without having to hold a courtroom inquiry. It promotes harmonious relationships among the individuals involved, in the best interests of the child and the child’s rights.
Where is a settlement conference held?
Settlement conferences are held in specially designed rooms instead of courtrooms to allow for more relaxed, informal discussions.
Who presides at a settlement conference?
Settlement conferences are presided over by a judge, who acts as a conciliator or mediator, as opposed to an adjudicating judge who would rule on disputes in a courtroom.
Who can request a settlement conference?
Holding a settlement conference is voluntary and thus can only occur with the agreement of all parties to the dispute.
To request a settlement conference, parties must complete the Joint Request for a Settlement Conference in a Youth Protection Case form, available on the Court of Québec website in the Settlement Conference in Youth Protection Cases section. It must be signed by all parties and by their attorneys, if applicable, and be sent to the Youth Division court office at the courthouse involved.
When can a settlement conference be requested?
Parties may ask for a settlement conference at any point in the legal process, although it is preferable to do so at the beginning of the proceedings so that the deadlines required by law are met.
What happens at a settlement conference?
A Court of Québec Youth Division judge presides, and the rules are flexible to make it easier to come to an amicable settlement of the dispute.
The parties are in attendance and may be assisted by their attorneys as applicable. The presiding judge, the parties, and their attorneys must agree to treat as confidential any information disclosed during the conference.
How and when does a settlement conference end?
First the judge declares the child’s safety or development at risk once he or she is convinced that the parties accept the facts justifying this conclusion. The judge then invites the parties to discuss and work out an agreement on what to do about the situation. If an agreement is reached in the child’s best interest and complies with the principles of law, the judge approves it to make it legally binding.
If the conference fails to resolve the dispute, no report is entered in the file and the case is heard by another judge at a later date.
The judge as well as the parties and their attorneys undertake to keep all information that is disclosed during the conference confidential, except for information that might reveal further circumstances endangering the child’s safety or development or the commission of a criminal offence.
How much does the service cost?
The settlement conference itself is free of charge. Parties not eligible for legal aid must pay their attorneys according to the fee arrangements agreed on.