By Brittany Koenig, Paralegal Navigator, Calgary
Applying to the Court should be your last resort, but you have already made every reasonable effort to resolve your family law conflict and you still cannot find a way to work it out. Court seems to be your best bet, but where do you start in Alberta – Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench?Both the Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta can hear and make Orders under the Alberta Family Law Act on the following types of issues:
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Child protection cases
The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta is a higher-level court than the Provincial Court so they can hear family claims and make orders under both the provincial legislation and the federal legislation. This means that there are some family law conflicts where you must file your application at the Court of Queen’s Bench, specifically:
- Exclusive possession of a home or household goods
- Declaration of parentage
- Declaration of irreconcilability
- Financial support orders that deal with property
- Divorce matters
Only the Court of Queen’s Bench can hear matters related to divorce and division of family property. It is also an appeal level court, which means that they have the authority to hear appeals on orders or awards that were heard in a lower-level court (i.e. the Provincial Court) or in arbitration. It is important to consider the pros and cons of starting your claim in either the Provincial Court or the Court of Queen’s Bench because once you file your claim, it can be difficult to move your matter to a different court.
One consideration is the potential costs you may incur for filing in either Provincial Court of the Court of Queen’s Bench. There is a $50 filing fee to file a claim in the Provincial Court of Alberta and there is no fee to file a response. There is a $250 fee to file a statement of claim or an originating application in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and a $50 fee to file a statement of defense. For a list of all court fees, visit the Government of Alberta’s webpage regarding Court fees.
The Court of Queen’s Bench has rules called the Alberta Rules of Court. The Provincial Court uses the Provincial Court Act as the starting point for their rules. The Alberta Rules of Court are stricter when it comes to admitting evidence and other procedures which may be helpful if the opposing party notoriously fails to follow the court rules or if you cannot locate the other party to serve them. However, the Provincial Court Act is designed to create rules that are easier to understand and follow, which may be helpful if you are representing yourself.
Furthermore, because the Court of Queen’s Bench is more heavily focused on the procedural aspects, you are more likely to get an order for costs in the Court of Queen’s Bench as opposed to the Provincial Court. Costs may be requested when applying to the Court of Queen’s Bench or Provincial Court when one party believes that they may be entitled to recover some or all of their legal costs associated with their family law claim from the opposing party.
Lastly, the Court of Queen’s Bench relies more heavily on filed, written evidence (usually submitted in the form of an affidavit) versus the Provincial Court of Alberta which often allows oral evidence in addition to any written, filed evidence. Since there are a lot more documents and procedures to be followed when applying to the Court of Queen’s Bench, the Provincial Court is often more available and efficient in granting orders.If you are still unsure about where to start, the team at Coach My Case has extensive experience and knowledge of the Provincial Court and the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta processes. At Coach My Case, we can point you in the direction of the Court best equipped to handle your case – book your free strategy session with a Legal Navigator today.