What is the difference between Provincial and Supreme Court for family court.

In BC, many people wonder whether to start a family law action in Provincial Court of Supreme Court.  There are many factors that come into play when making this decision.  The particulars of your case may make it necessary or advantageous to operate within a certain court.

The Provincial Court of BC deals with Family Law Act matters such as guardianship, parenting time and parental responsibilities, child and spousal support, and Family Law Act protection orders.  The Provincial Court also has exclusive jurisdiction over child protection matters brought under the Child, Family and Community Services Act.  In Provincial Court, there are no court filing fees and the processes, governed by the Provincial Court Family Rules, are meant to be simpler to navigate.  It can be easier to  have your matter heard sooner in Provincial Court, but you cannot win a cost award if your legal case is successful.

The Supreme Court of BC has jurisdiction to deal with any Family Law Act matter that Provincial Court can.  The Supreme Court also has exclusive jurisdiction of many family law matters, such as: adoptions, making parentage orders where children have been conceived via assisted reproduction, a division of family property (assets and debts), setting aside or enforcing agreements dealing with property, annulments and divorces or orders under the federal Divorce Act, and appointments of trustees over children’s property.  The Supreme Court can also hear appeals of decisions made in the Provincial Court.  There are court filing fees in Supreme Court and the processes, governed by the Supreme Court Family Rules, are more formal and less accessible without legal representation.  Depending on the specifics of your family law matter, it may take longer for your case to get into court, but there is an ability to win a cost award if your case is successful.