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Which Court: Supreme or Provincial? Pursuing Family Law Claim

Jun 24 2019

If you’re new to pursuing a family law claim, one of the first questions you might ask is whether it would be better to pursue your claim in Provincial Court or Supreme Court. In BC, both courts have jurisdiction to hear family law cases: Provincial Court can hear claims related to parenting, child support and spousal support while the Supreme Court can hear all of those claims plus claims related to property division. It can also grant divorces.

Isn’t Provincial Court Less Expensive?

You might have heard that Provincial Court is typically less costly than Supreme Court. But if you are planning on hiring a lawyer to represent you in a family law case, you should know that Provincial Court may not always be less expensive than Supreme Court.

  • In Provincial Court, there are more required court appearances, which means the majority of your legal costs would go towards paying a lawyer for the time he or she spends working on your family law matter.
  • It can also take longer to conclude matters in Provincial Court because of the framework and procedures imposed. A longer timeframe will always add to overall costs.
  • In Provincial Court, the judge does not have the ability to award ‘costs’, which is a method of punishing the losing side in a court application by requiring them to contribute to the winning side’s legal expenses. In other words, the reasonable parent has to make several court appearances due to the unreasonable position of the other parent yet is not able to receive compensation for his or her legal costs.

It Depends On What You Need

If you plan on representing yourself in court or just plan on getting a lawyer to assist with document drafting and some preparation – often called unbundled services – and you do not have any asset or debt division issues to be resolved, then Provincial Court is probably the right option for you. It is typically easier for people to navigate on their own, without the requirement of a lawyer’s services.

On the other hand, if you have assets and debts to divide, or are looking to get a divorce granted, then you will need to start your family law claim in Supreme Court.

There are many considerations when deciding which court is the right court for your family law matter. Consult with one of our RDM family law lawyers to assist with making that decision.

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