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Family Law Blog

Chambers Applications – What Are They?

Chambers Applications – What Are They?

Before a trial makes it to the Supreme Court in BC, a Chamber application is the process through which pre-trial applications and procedures are handled. The name “chambers” dates back to olden times when a judge’s office was called their chambers, and they would hear applications from lawyers there. While times have moved on, the term remains in use, and as relevant as ever. In this week’s blog, we’re going to look at Chambers Applications and the type of scenarios in which they are appropriate.

What to Expect from a Chambers Application

Chambers applications are publicly viewable hearings that take place in a courtroom setting. While the proceedings are  presided over by a judge or Master, they won’t be referred to at any point as a judge. Instead, a Master is addressed as ‘Your ‘Honour’, and a judge as ‘My Lord’ or ‘My Lady’. If you are in Masters chambers, don’t expect to see this individual wearing traditional robes. Instead, they will usually wear normal business clothing such as a suit. Evidence presented at a Chambers application is submitted in sworn written statements called affidavits, with few exceptions where the judge or Master will request otherwise. This differs from a conventional trial where different types of evidence are admissible, and oral evidence is the norm.

What Types of Cases are Handled in Chambers Applications?

A Chambers application is usually a prelude to an on-going civil or family case. The judge or Master will hear applications for interim orders, preliminary matters and procedural matters. These applications can help to move a case forward, but usually don’t result in the final decision. To present a real-life example of how this works, a Chambers application can be used by a plaintiff to seek a court order to serve documents on an individual in an alternative manner (for example by email), if the individual cannot be located for personal service. A party in a family law case can use a Chambers application to request an interim order for child or spousal support (an order that will be generally remain in place until trial or other resolution of the case)

Chambers is also where summary trials take place. A summary trial is sometimes used when there is only one issue of fact or law that needs to be determined, and a full trial is unnecessary. It also used when there is a benefit to having a determination of one issue completed in advance of trial, and it is possible to somewhat neatly address this issue separate from the rest of the claim. It is more difficult to obtain permission for the latter use of summary trials. 

Is a Lawyer Necessary for a Chambers Application?

While a lawyer isn’t mandatory for a Chambers application, it’s highly recommended to consult with a lawyer before proceeding. At all times, an individual must follow the Supreme Court Family Rules. Failure to do so could result in delays, fines, or even not having the opportunity to appear in court. This is one important reason why a lawyer would be helpful for this legal proceeding.

Chambers proceedings are open to the public, although the evolving public health situation surrounding COVID-19 means these sessions are now typically conducted by telephone, and observers must dial in.

How to Prepare for a Chambers Application

It’s always best to prepare for any legal proceeding in advance. Here are some practical tips to help ensure you’re ready for this day in court.

  •   Plan for a Full Day: your hearing will likely be one of many occurring that day, and as they are heard in order of length and/or urgency, the court can’t give parties the specific time at which you will be called up. Keep your entire day clear.
  •   Arrive On-Time and Organized: take all documents pertaining to the case and ensure you arrive in plenty of time. Let the court clerk know you have arrived when the court opens.
  •   Know What Questions You Want to Ask: if you have any aspects of the case you want clarified, a Chambers application offers an opportunity to get answers.

Let Us Help

In family law it pays to be prepared. At Westside Family Law, we have helped countless clients navigate the Chambers application process. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.