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Judges give nod to family law case management service

Judges in family law courts are expressing approval of a unique case management service launched last year by Toronto family lawyer Herschel Fogelman.

The service allows Fogelman to act as a case manager pursuant to an executed mediation/arbitration agreement. It allows him to manage a case from early in the process until the final hearing, effectively resolving disputes ranging from disclosure and procedural issues, right up to interim motions on substantive issues such as child or spousal support. It can be used within or outside of litigation.

Fogelman’s relatively unique service, available to Ontario family lawyers, has been gradually building over the past year, generating positive reviews from counsel and the courts, he says.

“The most surprising thing for me was the feedback from the bench,” says Fogelman, principal with Fogelman Law. “I’ve received some really good feedback from lawyers but great feedback from judges. Judges have reached out to me independently.

“They’ve referred people to me within this process, because they realize with their busy dockets, this is something that is required.”

The service is an alternative to parties seeking to launch a lawsuit, or can used once litigation has already started, he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“Parties can opt into this process, which will allow all the interim and procedural issues in the case to be resolved in a couple of months as opposed to a couple of years.”

The process is different from mediation in that it starts at the beginning of a case instead of the end. Fogelman says there is a great benefit to having the same person managing your case every day.

“The Family Rules suggest that a single judge case manages a matter, but that is not always the case due to judicial rotations, trial scheduling and other factors. Parties cannot be certain that the same judge will be hands-on over the life of the file,” he says, adding the system is plagued with delays.

Using his service, counsel can deal with issues as they arise informally and in a setting tailor-made to the case and the issue at hand, as opposed to pre-set court attendances often many months apart.

Issues can be addressed by phone, email or video conferencing, he adds, without the need to file reams of materials for every appearance.

Fogelman says he expects since the concept is new, it will likely take time for some lawyers and their clients to become comfortable with the idea.

“It’s all about saving time and money, and there is no doubt that this process will do both of those things” he says.

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