Top 6 procedural considerations in Provincial or Supreme courts in British Columbia family law

Knowing whether Supreme Court of Provincial Court is better suited to resolving your family law case might save you time, money, and stress. The procedure each court uses to resolve claims is an important factor in getting a fair and fast result. Below are six important similarities and differences between Provincial and Supreme Court.

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 1) Both Provincial and Supreme Court procedure require someone to start an action

In Supreme Court, someone generally files a Notice of Family Claim to start an action. In Provincial Court, this is a Notice of Motion. The forms are slightly different, but they basically fulfill the same purpose.

2) Both Provincial Court and Supreme Court procedure require parties to provide financial disclosure

In Supreme Court, both parties complete a Form F8 Financial Statement to first disclose their assets, income, debts, and other assorted financial matters. In Provincial Court, this is a Form 4. Both documents fulfill essentially the same purpose.

3) Document production in Supreme Court is a more formal part of the Rules of Court

In Supreme Court, both parties have to complete a Form F20 List of Documents, which is essentially geared at providing everything to the other party that is relevant to the case. Technically, section 5 of the Family Law Act, says that both parties have to disclose that information anyway, but Supreme Court procedure has a built-in mechanism to make that happen.

4) Supreme Court and Provincial Court can punish misbehaving parties

The Family Law Act contains provisions for orders which allow the court to punish non-compliant parties, especially parties who are frustrating the conduct of an action. Either court may use these provisions to punish misbehaving parties, and have done so in the event someone is frustrating the court process.

5) The loser in Supreme Court pays the winner (usually)

Although both courts can punish misbehaving parties under the Family Law Act, Supreme Court procedure also automatically considers if it should award “costs” against a losing party. These costs have nothing to do with any misbehavior, and are instead aimed at encouraging settlement (instead of court hearings to decide matters). These costs are almost never legal fees, and usual amounts for costs are contained in a Schedule to Appendix B of the Supreme Court Family Rules. In an action with a two-week trial, costs can easily be tens of thousands of dollars.

6) Provincial Court requires “parenting after separation”

Parenting after separation (PAS) is a free course offered for separating parents when children are involved. You can learn more about PAS here, but it generally helps people understand how to be a good parent after separation. Occasionally, a very difficult parent will change their behavior significantly after taking PAS. The Supreme Court will order parties to take PAS, but this generally only happens after an action has been launched at a Judicial Case Conference (JCC).


There are other considerations (besides procedure) in choosing whether to go through Provincial or Supreme Court: check out our article on the top differences between what orders a court can grant here.