Do you need to go to Provincial (Family) Court or Supreme Court?
Before you consider this question, think about whether you need to go to court at all. Many couples can solve their family law issues without going to court. See the fact sheets Making an agreement after you separate and Who can help you reach an agreement? for more information.
If you do need to go to court to apply for a court order, you'll first have to figure out which court you need to apply to. In BC, the Supreme Court and the Provincial Court handle some of the same types of cases. But procedures, time frames, the kinds of orders you can get, and costs are different. See the charts and text below for more information.
Sometimes you don't have a choice
There are times when you don't have a choice about which court you go to. If you want to change an order that's already in place, you generally have to go back to the same court you started in. Get legal advice if you want to go to a different court.
If you want to apply for a divorce, you must go to the Supreme Court.
Other situations when you don't have a choice are included in the table below.
Which court do I go to?
|Supreme Court to ...||Supreme or Provincial Court to ...|
What are the courts like?
|Provincial Court has ...||Supreme Court has ...|
an informal atmosphere
|a formal atmosphere|
|more locations||fewer court locations|
|less paperwork (than the Supreme Court)||lots of paperwork|
|fewer and more flexible rules||many and more strict rules|
|lawyers representing people, but also many people representing themselves||more lawyers representing people|
|rules that let you give spoken evidence about your case||rules that say you must give written evidence about your case (for example, an affidavit) to get an interim order|
|no filing fees||filing fees to start your case ($200) and then to apply for an interim order ($80)|
|no ability to award costs (but can award expenses)||the ability to award costs and expenses|
The benefits of using both courts
In some situations, you may find it best to use both courts. You could get most of your orders in Provincial Court, and then just apply for your divorce order in Supreme Court. (You could also choose to make an agreement about parenting, support, and property and then just apply to the Supreme Court for a divorce.) This approach might save you money and time, especially if you and your spouse agree on what should be done.
On the other hand, it could make things more complicated to have to deal with two different courts. It can also be a problem if you ask more than one court to deal with issues about parenting and support.
If you need more help deciding where to file your case
For more information, see Who can help?
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