Tuesday, June 2, 2020 12:00 PM
An order-in-council published Monday, June 1, 2020, will repeal and replace the provincial court family rules and improve how British Columbia families can resolve their legal issues in family court.
The new family court rules come into force in May 2021. These rules include modernized court processes recognizing electronic communication, enabling electronic filing and giving judges more flexibility in determining the best use of court time. Some of these changes are particularly relevant in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These rules focus on early resolution of family law cases, a new approach to case management including family management conferences, streamlined court processes and new forms that are easier to use and understand. The changes are aimed at enhancing the ability of the provincial court to resolve family disputes more efficiently and effectively, while creating a better experience for families resolving their legal disputes.
Early resolution of family disputes keeps the focus on the best interests of children and families. The new rules will introduce a process that will be implemented by registry to enable mandatory assessment, including early screening for family violence. Assessments will also include determining suitability for dispute resolution and other referrals.
The emphasis on early resolution services through assessment, referral, education and in some cases, mediation, will help families resolve their disputes in a more sustainable and holistic way. The case management and court process changes are aimed at making things easier for users with a more streamlined and managed court process.
New court forms have been redesigned to use plain language and a conversational, question-and-answer approach that will be easier for court users to use and understand. The new forms will help people tell their story, especially those who are representing themselves in court.
The new provincial court family rules follow a public consultation held in 2019 and have been developed through collaboration between the Ministry of Attorney General, the Provincial Court of B.C., members of the bar and a community advocate. Some parts of the rules will apply in certain registries that can be expanded as resources are available.