Courts in BC

Court Hierarchy

In British Columbia, there are two levels of court in which litigation generally occurs.

The lower level is the Provincial Court of British Columbia (the Family Division of which is sometimes referred to as “Family Court”). The higher level is the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Each court has particular benefits and drawbacks.

 

Jurisdiction

The Supreme Court of British Columbia has jurisdiction to resolve all matters in a family law case. The Provincial Court has jurisdiction only over those matters specifically assigned to it by statute. Practically speaking, the main jurisdictional difference between the two courts is that the Supreme Court has the power to deal with property (e.g. family homes, money, cars, investments, debts) while the Provincial Court does not. Another practical jurisdictional issue is that only a Judge of the Supreme Court can make orders under the Divorce Act. This means that if you are seeking a divorce, you must ask for that order in Supreme Court.

Each court has its own set of rules governing family cases.

Provincial Court (Family) Rules (PCFR) govern proceedings in Provincial Court.

Supreme Court (Family) Rules (SCFR) govern proceedings in Supreme Court.

 

Costs

Provincial Court is by far the less expensive, simpler court. Documents submitted to the court generally do not incur any filing fees and the process can be likened to a “people’s court” often dealing with unrepresented litigants. The processes and court documents are easier to understand. Supreme Court is far more expensive, and more complex. Documents submitted to the Court generally incur filing fees, anywhere between $25.00-$200.00 for each document filed.

Supreme Court is generally populated by lawyers, though unrepresented litigants are not uncommon.

Supreme Court also allows for awards of “costs.” This means that if your applications to the court are successful, you may be awarded a portion of your costs to be paid for by the other party. Provincial Court does not allow for costs. Of course, the inverse is also true – if the other party is successful against you in his or her applications, you may be ordered to pay a portion of his or her costs.

 

Where Should You Start Your Claim?

Contact us for an assessment of your case and we will assist you in determining which court is right for you.

 
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