New rules come into force to support families using Provincial Court

NEW Provincial Court Family Rules will help streamline processes and support families to resolve matters earlier in the process and with reduced conflict.

“Resolving family law issues, such as child support or parenting time, becomes highly adversarial in a courtroom and can have a significant negative impact on families compared to providing families resources to resolve as many issues as they can on their own with support services,” said David Eby, Attorney General, on Monday. “These new rules focus on early services and more user-friendly court processes that aim to support agreement where possible and make each court appearance meaningful and productive. It’s more efficient and more productive for all participants.”

The previously announced new rules, which will take effect on May 17, include a focus on early intervention to resolve family law issues before they reach the court. Early resolution services are available free of charge from Justice Access Centres and Family Justice Centres throughout the province. Some registries require parties to access those services before certain court events. In other registries, families may access those services voluntarily.

“We are seeing early positive results in Surrey and Victoria, where some of these new rules were adopted early,” Eby said. “Families are better understanding the process, and fewer matters are proceeding to court. Surrey and Victoria have benefited from being ‘early resolution registries’ where information, assessment, referrals and for some families, consensual dispute resolution, occur at the beginning of the process saving time, money and unnecessary conflict.”

In addition, modernized court processes and improved opportunities for case management will make it easier for families to resolve disputes. To support these changes, the Province has updated court forms to use plain language and a more conversational question-and-answer approach to make it easier for users to understand.

“Under this model there are early opportunities, before making an application to court, for parties to a family law dispute to obtain information, support and assistance from family justice counsellors, resolve their dispute through consent agreements or, engage in appropriate family dispute resolution,” said Melissa Gillespie, Chief Judge, Provincial Court of B.C.

“The early launch of the early-resolution aspect of the rules in Victoria and our court in Surrey have demonstrated the benefit to families of this type of model with enhanced pre-court services. Where families are able to engage these processes to resolve their issues without coming to court, there will be a reduction in the number of files, and issues per file, being set for a hearing in the court. This will increase the court time available for other scheduled matters to proceed. The court appreciates the dedication of everyone who worked on developing the rules over many years and the collaboration that has enabled these new rules to come into effect.”

These rules were developed jointly by the Ministry of Attorney General and the Provincial Court through a working group that included the judiciary, members of the bar and a community advocate that drew upon a wide range of research, subject matter experts and a public consultation.

Learn More:

For brief information about the new rules from the Provincial Court, see the Court’s e-news article: