One of the more frustrating aspects of family litigation is waiting for an available date to be able to bring on a court application in Chambers.
Chambers Applications in Family Law Matters
Applications in Chambers, which deal with temporary orders as opposed to final orders, are common in family law because there are often issues that must be dealt with immediately and can't wait for a trial 12 months away. Some examples of matters that can be heard by way of an application include:
- interim child support applications,
- applications for exclusive use of the family home,
- orders for sale of property, and
- interim applications for parenting time.
Often several applications on the same file are heard at once (for example, child support and spousal support, along with parenting orders), which is usually a more efficient way of dealing with disagreements between parties than having multiple court appearances. But, having multiple issues heard at once makes it more likely that they become what is known as a "Lengthy Chambers" application.
Lengthy Chambers Applications and Scheduling Problems
Lengthy Chambers applications are court applications that are expected to take two or more hours of court time. The difficulty arising from trying to schedule a lengthy Chambers application is that it can be difficult to get a hearing date within a reasonable period of time. This situation can obviously cause hardship for parties to a family law dispute. The process for setting your hearing date for lengthy Chambers applications is that you must schedule your hearing directly with the Supreme Court Registry. To do that, you must wait until the Court Registry releases available lengthy Chambers dates, which fill up very quickly, and once they are full, you have to wait for the next release, usually several weeks away. For example, at the time of publishing this article, there are currently no available Lengthy Chambers dates for family court files.
A Potential Solution to Dates for Lengthy Chambers Applications
The BC Supreme Court recently made an announcement that may simplify the process of getting a hearing date when a party to litigation needs to apply to court for an order. The Court has announced the introduction of the use of an "assize week" system of scheduling long chambers applications in the Vancouver Registry. Under this system the parties will have the option to sign up for an Assize week, this means that both parties agree that they will make themselves available for a hearing on short notice during a one-week period. This will allow parties to have lengthy Chambers applications heard without having to wait for the release of Chambers dates and will allow them to have time sensitive lengthy Chambers applications heard more swiftly. In the writer's view, this is a positive step for litigants in Vancouver who require court intervention. The result is an improvement to access to justice for and an increase in the efficiency of the court system. Unfortunately, Assize week only applies to non-family law civil litigants. However, if it creates room on the Chambers lists it will also (hopefully) create additional space on the Chambers lists for family law cases that need to be heard in a timely manner. We will have to wait and see. To read the Court's announcement, click HERE