BC Supreme Court
BC Supreme Court can be a stressful place to be when self-represented. Even for most lawyers, they don’t enjoy doing litigation as they find it too confusing and stressful. The deadlines in supreme court are very strict, and there can be a massive amount of forms to fill out. The court staff don’t help much, so it’s up to you to educate yourself. If you don’t fill out a form on time, the opposing party might file a form to get costs awarded to them. The amount of costs might vary between $100-2000. It depends on what the judge or master grants.
In court, judges can be called as “my lady” and men are called “my lord.”
The courts hear appeals from provincial court, criminal matters, and civil matters. Many of the civil matters in the Supreme Court of BC are family law related. When you show up at the court to hear other cases, you might see that half of the cases heard by a judge are family related. The rest of the matters will likely be a mix of contract disputes, bankruptcy hearings, personal injury, slander, and other matters between two citizens or businesses.
In order to get a divorce, you must involve the court. However, if you can get a separation agreement signed, you might not have to go in person. But the courts must always approve the paperwork. The judge or master is going to want to see that you have resolved all matters before approving the divorce.
Civil Court Pleadings
Litigation normally starts when someone petitions to start the claim. Everything must be filed at the court registry. The court staff will have to look over your paperwork to make sure it’s correct. Please note if the papers are not right, the court staff will reject it. This can be stressful. It can also be expensive, as some forms cost $200-500 to file. Even if you don’t want to pay a lawyer to help you, there are always costs with litigation.
The first step in a litigation in supreme court is often completing pleadings. This is a structured format which explains your claim. Once you finish your claim, the other side responds. Keep in mind that the other side might do a counterclaim in order to put pressure on you.
The pleadings can take some time to put together. It’s very complex and needs to cite case law as well as other legal information. It is almost always done by a lawyer.
You can read about family law pleadings.
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Case Planning Conference- Supreme Court of BC
If you are trying to do things on the cheap, you might be able to attend the case planning conference (CPC) by yourself. You will have to file a case plan proposal. If you cannot attend in person and are not represented by a lawyer, you will have to file another form as well. The case planning conference is important because it outlines how the court case is going to play out. It might explain when discovery will happen. It also will say how documents will change hands. Further, it might set a trial date and how long the trial is.
Keep in mind, the longer the trial, the harder it is to get court dates. If you need more than 10 days in court, you might be waiting for years. You cannot submit for short term orders in a case planning conference. The judge will likely tell you that you will need to bring an application instead.
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Asking The Parties Questions
The judge will likely ask whoever started the CPC questions about what they want to achieve. Once they have explained what they want to see happen, the other party will respond. Make sure to bring two binders with all the evidence in it. One will go to the judge, and the other will stay with you. You can refer to the tabs when speaking to the judge. For example, you might say, “my lord, please see a copy of the email I received on December 15, 2017 in tab B.” The judge will likely know little of your case, so having the binder helps them understand your position.
After the judge has asked a bunch of questions and understands each others’ arguments, they will often decide. It might sound something like:
Exchange of documents will happen on January 15; discovery will conclude on March 15. Further, there will be another case planning conference on August 1, and the trial will start on October 15.
The case planning conference might take about 1.5 hours. If the matter is simpler, it might take longer. In the courts, they book time by “less than two hours” or “more than two hours.”
You should watch this video to learn more. You can also see our channel to watch more videos.
More Information About The Court
The Supreme Court also makes decisions on dividing up assets during a divorce. Further, they can also decide which parent will get custody of the child.
People can self represent in supreme court. If you want to self represent, there is a self-help center in the Vancouver court. Please note they are not lawyers, and they don’t give legal advice. But they can tell you which forms you need to fill out. If you need self represented coaching, you can book a consultation time on our website.
Sometimes it can be hard for the judge to deal with self represented individuals. Many do not know the rules, and the person can come off as rude. The last thing you want to do is upset a judge when asking them to give you an order. Lawyers who do litigation will know the process, so if you can afford to hire a lawyer full time, it’s worth doing. If you are looking for representation, you can contact our law firm to see if we offer it in your city.
In supreme court there are jury trials for both criminal and civil cases. The judges roll is to explain the process to the jury, instead of deciding. In a civil trial, a jury only has eight people.
Please read more of our blogs to learn more!
Common Law Relationships- Supreme Court of Canada
The Supreme Court of Canada in Kerr v. Barranow, set out analytical framework to evaluate unjust enrichment claims. The Court created a test is whether the circumstances are characterized as “an unjust retention of an inappropriately disproportionate share of assets accumulated” during a relationship that is “a joint family venture to which both have contributed.” A joint family venture is determined by evaluating:
(1) Whether the parties formed a true partnership and worked towards mutual goals;
(2) The degree of economic integration and interdependence between the parties;
(3) The intent of the parties towards the relationship; and
(4) Whether the applicant made the family his or her priority in decision making.
Sometimes a spouse is successful in establishing that there was a joint family venture and the other spouse was unjustly enriched by their actions. The court will make an award to the applicant spouse to reverse the unjust enrichment. This award is typically monetary in nature. Note: the court will not assume an equal division of the assets, similar to a marital relationship. The value of the award will depend on the circumstances and the type of contribution of the applicant spouse.
It is very complicated to divide property when separating from your common law spouse. Make sure to speak to a lawyer about your rights and obligations.
Can Access Be Denied Over a Christmas Fist Fight?
The case Houben v. Maxwell, raised the question whether a parent can deny access to the other parent on the basis that they heard the parent punched a family member at Christmas.
In Houben, the mother had sole custody of the parties’ son and the father had unsupervised access every weekend pursuant to a final order. There had been issues for years with access. However, when the father’s estranged ex-girlfriend sent a text message to the mother complaining about the father’s behavior at Christmas, the mother decided to stop access and prevent the parties’ son from seeing the father.
In the text message, the father’s ex-girlfriend advised the mother that the father had a verbal and physical altercation with his brother and when his father came out to intervene, the father had punched him in the face. When the mother refused to give the father access, the father brought an application before the court to find the mother in contempt of the final court order.
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There was agreement from the father that an incident happened. However, the extent of the physical contact was the father pushing his brother and that the father did not punch his father in the face. The father also produced evidence to show that the child was unaware of the incident.
BC Supreme Court Can Be Scary Alone
The mother conceded that she was in contempt of the other. As such, the question before the court was whether she was legally justified in disobeying the order and preventing access because there was serious risk of harm to the child. Upon evaluation, the Court found that the mother was not legally justified in restricting access. There was no serious risk or harm to the child.
The incident happened with the child being involved or being aware of what was happening. The evidence suggested that it was an isolated incident. As a result, the Court awarded the makeup access time the father sought as remedy for the breach.
In conclusion, it was clear that the mother’s response to the ex-girlfriend’s text message was an overreaction. The court found her in contempt of the court order as she did not have the basis to deny access. This scenario was unique. Have questions about custody and access? Speak to one of our Toronto family law lawyers about your circumstances. If you want to learn about law, visit our videos.
If you need help with an issue in BC supreme court, reach out to our law firm to get self represented coaching.