In Your Court: Should I Go Provincial or Supreme?

Provincial Court or the Supreme Court?

Most people getting separated or divorced are dealing with family law issues for the first time. And navigating the family law court registry can be a confusing and daunting task. One of the biggest concerns is where to go: Provincial Court or the Supreme Court?

The following Q&A provides some answers to the questions around which court to use for your family law case:

Q: We are Married and Need a Divorce, where do I file?

A: Supreme Court

Generally, you want to file in Supreme Court as Provincial cannot grant a divorce.

Q: We have family property and debts to divide, where do I file?

A: Supreme Court

If you have any assets such as a home, condo, vacation property, bank accounts, RRSPs, cars, or any other family assets or debts that were accumulated during the relationship with your spouse, you need to file in the Supreme Court. Provincial lacks the jurisdiction to assign these assets and debts.

Q: We are Common-Law and have property and debts, where do I file?

A: Supreme Court.

If you are common-law – living together in a marriage-like relationship continuously for a minimum of two years in BC and at least three years in Alberta – and there are assets and/or liabilities from the relationship, you need to file in Supreme Court. Family property division occurs in Supreme Court, regardless of relationship status.

Q: I believe I am Entitled to Spousal Support, where should I file?

A: It depends.

If you are not legally married, and there are no property issues, you should file a spousal support application in Provincial Court. If you are legally married and/or have family property to divide, you need to file in Supreme Court.

Q: We have Children, where I should I file?

A: It depends.

Again, factoring into this is marriage and property division. If you are legally married or you have property to divide, you should file in Supreme Court. If you are not married and property is not an issue, Provincial Court is where you should file.

Q: Can I file in both the Provincial Court and Supreme Court?

A: Yes, but…

We do not recommend it. Generally, you should not have two concurrent matters going on in separate courts – pick one and have everything heard there. Facts, information and documents will likely need to be duplicated in both courts; also, you might require twice as many court applications or even two trials. Much better to keep it all in one place so that you’re not doubling the workload and, more crucially, paying double the legal costs.

Q: What location should I file in?

A: Generally, the Court closest to you

Check the Supreme Court and Provincial Court websites for a courthouse nearest you. In BC, if you live in the North or the Interior, the closest courthouse may be a few cities away and it might be more convenient to file your claim in Vancouver.

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