When spouses separate, even if they know their rights and obligations, they often find that there is another level of complexity standing between them and what is fair: court rules and procedures.
In the Ontario family courts, these are governed first by the Ontario Family Law Rules. Those Rules apply to all levels of family courts in Ontario.
In BC, there are two different levels of court that handle family law disputes, the BC Supreme Court, and the BC Provincial Court. In BC, to make things more complicated, each court has its own set of family law Rules. Yes, the Supreme Court Family Rules are different than the Provincial Court Family Rules.
From Toronto to Vancouver, or anywhere else in Ontario and BC, before people ever get into a court room, they have to learn how to navigate the court registry. The court registry is the place where parties file documents and schedule hearings. The registry is the central organization of the court system. Very little happens in a court room unless it is first properly scheduled by the registry.
What does the registry have to do with the Rules? Each court house has its own registry. Even more than judges, the registry staff are the people who are on top of what you can and cannot do according to the Rules, and when you can and cannot do it. The registries in both Ontario and BC courts are governed by the Rules that apply to that court.
And the Rules themselves are only the first step. The second hurdle in navigating the court registry system is knowing how to fill out the forms that the Rules refer to.
The Rules, like the laws itself, exist to reach fair results. They are intended to make sure that everyone has a chance to tell his and her side of any dispute so judges can make informed and, therefore, fair decisions. Unfortunately, the Rules are often far less than clear to non-lawyers. In fact, they frequently act like a maze that frustrates and sometimes even prevents average people from navigating Ontario and BC family courts.
Whether you are in Ontario or BC, the law — and many couples’ situations — are often complex enough that it’s a good idea to talk to a lawyer, even if it is just a free initial consultation (like I provide).
If the information on this site doesn't answer your question, you can book a free, no obligation consultation in Toronto about your divorce and family law rights in Ontario and BC.