Court Process

Court Process in BC

There are only two ways to resolve a dispute that arises on a marriage breakdown: by agreement or through the court.

In British Columbia, there are distinct levels of courts which deal with different aspects of family law.

The Provincial Family Court has the power to deal with custody, access and spousal and BC child support disputes. It has no power to grant a divorce or to deal with the division of family assets.

Provincial Family Court procedure is, however, more informal than that of the BC Supreme Court and it is possible for disputes to be resolved more quickly and economically than in the BC Supreme Court. There are Provincial Family Courts in most municipalities.

The Supreme Court has the power to deal with custody, access and spousal and BC child support issues as well as issues of division of property and divorce. In the Lower Mainland of BC, Supreme Court cases are heard in Vancouver, New Westminster and Chilliwack.

In both the Supreme Court and the Provincial Family Court, it is possible to obtain interim (“temporary”) orders for BC child support, custody and access and other matters. Interim orders are usually obtained at the beginning of the case and remain in place until the case has been completed and a final decision made. Interim orders are also commonly made for one spouse to have exclusive possession of a family asset, such as the family home, for the sale of assets or for the prohibition of the sale of assets.

While both the Provincial Family Court and the Supreme Court are making efforts to streamline the court process and to shorten the waiting time to have a case decided, obtaining a final decision in a family case can still take many months.

For more information about the Courts of British Columbia, click here.