Disputes regarding your family and children can be extremely stressful. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, the parties are unable to resolve their differences on their own or with the assistance of counsel. In those circumstances, they may have to attend court, to have a Judge make these important decisions.
Lawyers provide representation at all levels of court, including Provincial Court, Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. It is the courts’ job to make decisions regarding family disputes in a fair and impartial manner. Upon retaining our firm, we will assess your case and recommend the judicial venue that is appropriate to your specific case. Throughout the court process, we will act as a liaison with the court systems regarding court dates, paperwork, discovery, documentation, interim orders and other important details.
Below, please find a summary of the three levels of court in British Columbia.
Provincial Court of British Columbia
The British Columbia Provincial Court’s Family Court division handles select family law issues under British Columbia’s Family Relations Act (FRA). While the Family Court cannot grant a divorce or deal with property matters, it can deal with other important family matters including:
- Custody and guardianship of children
- Access to children
- Child support and special expenses
- Spousal support and child support
- No contact/Restraining Orders
- Variation and enforcement of orders
- Child protection issues brought by the Ministry for Children and Family Development under the provincial Child, Family and Community Service Act.
Before a disputed issue goes to trial, the parties may be asked to attend a Family Case Conference (FCC) before a judge. This conference offers an opportunity to settle matters outside of court. If negotiation is successful, the judge will make a consent order at the FCC.
If the parties are unable to resolve their matter at the FCC, they can proceed to trial. At a trial, the court will hear evidence and review documents from each party. Each party can also call other witnesses, which may include other professionals, including teachers, doctors, accountants or others.
Following a hearing/trial, the Judge will then make a decision regarding the outstanding issues. The terms of the Judge’s decision will form part of a court Order.
Supreme Court of British Columbia
The Supreme Court handles family law cases under Canada’s Divorce Act and British Columbia’s Family Law Act (FLA). The Supreme Court deals with all of the same matters that the Provincial Court can address, as well as:
- Divorce orders
- Orders for the division of family property
- Restraining Orders regarding property
As in Provincial Court, the parties may be asked to attend a conference, which is referred to as a Judicial Case Conference presided over by a judge, in an attempt to settle or narrow the issues before going to trial.
Supreme Court of Canada
When an action is commenced in the British Columbia Supreme Court, there are numerous procedures that may be utilized and there are some procedures that must be done by the party litigants. Please review our page on Supreme Court processes and procedures for more information.
British Columbia’s Court of Appeal
If you feel that a court order you received from a judge is unfair, you can challenge it by appealing to a higher level of court. An order of the Provincial Court is appealed to the Supreme Court, and an order of the Supreme Court is appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal is the highest level of court in British Columbia. An appeal is not a new trial, it is a review of the existing decision to determine if the initial judge made an error of fact or law.
A new judge will hear arguments for and against the appeal, review transcripts and evidence from the trial, and make a decision.