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Family Law Blog

What is the Difference Between the Supreme Court and Provincial Court in BC?

What is the Difference Between the Supreme Court and Provincial Court in BC?

Unsure whether your case will be heard in the Supreme Court, or Provincial Court of BC?

Within the Canadian legal system, family law cases can take place in BC’s Provincial Court or the Supreme Court. In some instances, such as divorce proceedings, the individuals involved do not have a choice and the case must be heard at the Supreme Court. However, there are plenty of examples of family law cases that are regularly held in both courts.

These types of cases, usually covered under the BC Family Law Act, include:

  • Guardianship of Children
  • Determinations of Parenting Time / Parental Responsibilities
  • Family Law Protection Orders
  • Spousal Support
  • Child Support

In this week’s blog, we’re going to examine some of the key differences between the BC Provincial Court and the BC Supreme Court. Before deciding which court is appropriate for your case, it’s recommended to consult with a family lawyer. 

Here are three key differences between the two courts:

Divorce Proceedings and Division of Family Property

Only the Supreme Court has the authority to grant a divorce pursuant to the Divorce Act, and only the Supreme Court can make orders respecting division of family property and family debt. If you are married and want to get a divorce, or are seeking orders respecting family property or family debt (whether you were married or in a common-law relationship), you must start your court proceeding in the Supreme Court.

Provincial Court is More Accessible

The Provincial Court system is designed to be accessible to everyone, with less stuffy procedures and boxes to be ticked. In the Supreme Court, there are usually more documents that must be filed and there are fees associated with filing these documents. 

Compare this to the Provincial Court, where family court documents can be filed at zero cost, and are typically easier to navigate, meaning individuals don’t necessarily need a legal expert to decipher the document in front of them. 

Provincial Courts also have more locations throughout the Lower Mainland, and they usually feature shorter wait times to have a case heard.

The Awarding of Costs

An important difference between the courts in British Columbia is that the Provincial Court does not have the right to award costs to the successful party in a legal proceeding. In contrast, the Supreme Court can award costs, and often does. 

Get in Touch

If you’re looking for advice on any aspect of family law, our law experts at Westside Family Law are standing by to assist. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to discuss your options.