The courts are closed. Now may be the right time for you to start a court action.
Effective March 19, 2020 the Supreme Court of British Columbia has suspended regular operations at all of its locations to protect the health and safety of court users and to help contain the spread of COVID-19. Urgent matters are still being heard, though what constitutes urgency is not clear in all circumstances.*
It is important to note that you can still start your family law case now, even though the courts are only hearing urgent cases. This is done by filing and serving a Notice of Family Claim. There are several reasons why now might be the right time for you to start a court action, even if your family law matter does not meet the test for urgency:
- Get through waiting periods: court rules ensure that everyone who is served with a claim has enough time to respond before the court makes any decisions. By filing your claim now, you can ensure that these requirements have been satisfied when you are ready to take your case to court.
- Negotiate from strength: your willingness to seek help from the courts will often level the playing field and bring even the most stubborn litigants to the negotiating table. This is true even if relief from the courts is somewhat delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Get help quickly: if you suddenly need help, for example to protect yourself or your child from abuse, the court can hear your matter on an urgent basis that much more quickly if your family law claim has already been filed.
- Obtain court dates sooner: filing your family law claim now will permit you to sooner schedule your mandatory Judicial Case Conference, without which most court applications cannot be made or trial dates scheduled. The court system was already operating beyond capacity before the COVID-19 pandemic arose. The repercussions of the decision to scale back hearings will be long-lasting and we expect JCC dates will be increasingly difficult to obtain.
- Make court rules work for you: once you have filed your family law claim the rules of court provide various tools that are not available outside the court process, including the ability to discover and obtain disclosure.
If you have questions about whether it would be advisable for you to start a court action, or about your family law matter generally, please contact Henderson Heinrichs LLP to set up your free 30-minute consultation via phone or video conference.
*The court will hear urgent matters where children are involved, and applications to obtain or remove a protection order. The Supreme Court considers the following child-related matters to be urgent: issues relating to the safety of a child or parent due to risk of violence or immediate harm, issues relating to the risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction, and issues relating to the well-being of a child.
The court considers the following child-related matters to be urgent: issues relating to the safety of a child or parent due to risk of violence or immediate harm, issues relating to the risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction, and issues relating to the well-being of a child.