Choosing your Court Correctly: Family Law in Provincial Court and Supreme Court
Family Law: Provincial Court or Supreme Court
There are multiple level of Court in British Columbia and one of the most significant decisions that a litigant makes can be choosing which Court to proceed in. There are strategic advantages and disadvantages to proceeding in different levels of Court and the decision over forum can affect both the amount and the type of damages (or monetary remedies) that you may receive. Although both the Provincial Court of British Columbia and the Supreme Court of British Columbia hear criminal matters, the decision about forum is not made by the criminal defendants, except in very specific circumstances where a defendant may see an advantage in moving from Provincial Court to Supreme Court. This discussion will consider the differences with respect to proceeding Supreme Court or in Provincial Court for Family Law matters.
Supreme Court vs Provincial Court for Family Law Cases
Family Law cases are heard in both Provincial Court and Supreme Court. The Supreme Court is the only Court that is able to grant divorces or deal with the division of assets. If you are legally married or have common law status (which means you have been living in a marriage like relationship for two years) and have shared assets or debts, you will likely want to proceed with a Notice of Family Claim in Supreme Court. Divorces can be granted in an uncontested manner through a Joint Family Claim. If you have children, you will need to satisfy the Court that adequate child support provisions are in place before the Court will grant your Divorce.
However, if you are not legally married and the only issues outstanding between yourself and your spouse relate to our children including issues related to guardianship, parenting time or support, you may wish to proceed in Provincial Court. Proceeding in Provincial Court is typically easier than proceeding in Supreme Court if you choose to represent yourself. The forms are more “fill-in-the-blank” style and the process is less formalized. It is important to remember that although you may choose not to hire a lawyer, there is nothing stopping your ex-spouse from having legal representation.
It is important to contact a lawyer if you are involved or will soon be involved in a family law dispute to ensure that your matter proceeds in the correct Court. Contact the Kushner Law Group if you would like to receive advice as to the most efficient and practical way to move your matter forward.