March 28, 2020
APPLICATIONS TO COURT – FAMILY LAW
NOTICE: obtain legal advice for your particular situation and ensure you have the most up to date information. These posts are general information only.
Currently, the courts have restricted their operations including limiting the applications to urgent matters in family law, but they are slowly adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow better access to the courts. The court’s website provides directives as to their practice so be sure to check out the BC Provincial Court, BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal websites for how they have adopted to this situation.
When you submit your application, the regular rules of evidence and admissibility are very relaxed right now. In other words, the need to swear and provide affidavits (sworn statements) to the court is not being strictly adhered to. The courts appear to be dealing with each application “summarily” given that they are likely being flooded with applications and the effects of the pandemic on their operations.
After submitting your application electronically (fax or email), wait for a response from the Registry by email or phone. You WILL have to stay by the phone and check your email. Also, be sure to be ready for your hearing as it may happen quickly and on the same day. This may be to determine the urgency, but it may also be to hear the application and to make an order. The approach of the court is to make very ROUGH decisions that are are temporary in a complex and daily changing situation with COVID-19.
My advice is to ensure that any application you submit electronically is organized in a way that you, the other party and the Judge can view while you are on the phone or video conference. My approach is to either have a PDF which has electronic tabs, or the easiest is to combine all your documents as one PDF, number the pages of the PDF, and create an index based on the page number of the document. The index would form part of the PDF as well.
For those that do not have access to computers or email, you can mail or drop off your application and materials.
But BEFORE you submit any application to the court, be sure that it is appropriate to do so. Naturally, there are emergency or urgent situations that cannot wait. However, in other situations flexibility, understanding, reasonableness and compromise are the way to go.