The short answer is: it depends.
Written by Jeanine Ball
Some of the factors to consider when making this decision include: the issues to be resolved; the type of process involved; and, the fees and costs involved.
- The issues to be resolved
Some issues can only be resolved in one court. For example, only the Supreme Court of BC has jurisdiction to grant a Divorce. The Supreme Court can also deal with related issues including parenting issues, child support, spousal support, and division of property. So if you are seeking a Divorce it often makes sense to deal with the Divorce and all of the related issues in Supreme Court.
Additionally, if you are dealing with division of property and debt following a separation, whether you were married or not, the Supreme Court is the only court in BC with the power to make orders related to family property and family debt.
If you are dealing with parenting issues, and/or issues of child or spousal support, you can deal with those matters in either the Provincial Court or the Supreme Court. The same is true for orders related to issues of Family Violence, such as Protection Orders.
- The type of process involved
Where the issues involved can be resolved in either court, the process does vary between the two courts. The forms and rules are a little simpler to navigate in Provincial Court. For this reason more people tend to gravitate towards Provincial Court where they are not represented by a lawyer. Both courts generally require a Case Conference as a first step, where a Judge or Master works with the parties to encourage a resolution through negotiation and compromise.
- Fees and Costs
Generally the fees to start a claim and file documents are higher in the Supreme Court. However, where there are contested applications in Supreme Court, the successful party may be awarded costs, which can be substantial. Costs awards are not available in Provincial Court, but the filing fees are lower.
Whether your matter is best dealt with in Provincial or Supreme Court, getting some legal advice to help navigate through the process is always a good idea. Please contact us if you need assistance with any of your family law issues.