Family Matters

The Provincial Court's family jurisdiction is governed by the following enactments: Family Law Act, the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act, the Child, Family and Community Service Act, and the Adult Guardianship Act. The procedures for making applications under these enactments are set out in the Provincial Court (Family) Rules the Provincial Court (Child, Family and Community Service Act) Rules and the Provincial Court (Adult Guardianship) Rules.

The Provincial Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Supreme Court of British Columbia under the Family Law Act in all matters concerning family maintenance and child custody, guardianship, and access. The Court's jurisdiction in respect of child protection under the Child, Family and Community Service Act is exclusive, with the exception of protective intervention orders and restraining orders. The volume of family cases is roughly equal to that of Supreme Court. Provincial Court does not have jurisdiction to grant divorces, make orders dividing matrimonial property, or relating to the occupation of the family home.

The number of family cases initiated in the Provincial Court has continued on an upward trend since 1995. This caseload increase has caused added pressure on the Court, with only minor relief offered by new rules and processes in family and child protection matters. The emphasis now is on providing resources to families through parenting education, involvement of Family Justice Counsellors, and mediation by Judges and other professionals.
Prior to holding a hearing on any family application, the Court may require the parties to appear for a family case conference held by a Judge. The purpose of the conference is to see if the parties can settle the dispute between them and agree to an order by consent, or identify matters in dispute that should go before a Judge for a full hearing.

In some locations, pursuant to Rule 5 of the Family Rules, before the parties can appear in court they must meet with a Family Justice Counsellor, who will assist them in resolving any part of their dispute.