Q&A — Provincial Court

All Provincial Courts in BC are conducting remote proceedings during COVID-19, until further notice. That means you can attend your hearing by a phone call from the court, a conference call through Telus, or an audioconference or videoconference through Microsoft Teams. See Provincial Court remote proceedings for tips on how to prepare for a remote court proceeding and what happens at them.

Many operations of the Provincial Court of British Columbia have been suspended. This includes in-person registry services at all locations. Filing deadlines, limitation periods, and mandatory time periods (to start a court case) are also suspended. However, urgent matters and now some other family matters are continuing, although with different procedures.

Family matters originally scheduled from March 16 to May 16, 2020

Family case conferences and Family Management Conferences (Victoria) scheduled from March 16 to May 16, 2020 won't proceed so the parties should not attend court. The parties will receive notification starting May 4, 2020, regarding the next date a family case conference or management conference will be scheduled. The conference will be held by audioconference or videoconference.

All non-urgent family matters, including trials, scheduled to proceed from March 16 to May 16, 2020, were adjourned without the parties having to attend court. See Appendix “A” on page 14 in the Provincial Court notice  for the next date. Only urgent family matters will be heard by telephone. You must apply by email, phone, mail, or fax (see next question).

For trials and trial continuations where the trial has been adjourned, parties will be contacted before the adjourned date in Appendix “A” in the Provincial Court notice by a Judicial Case Manager. The JCM will set a date for the matter to be scheduled as a pre-trial conference (not a trial) in order to decide whether the matter can be resolved or how to proceed.

Family matters originally scheduled from May 19 to July 3, 2020

Family case conferences and Family Management Conferences (Victoria) will be heard by audioconference or videoconference on the date originally set from May 19 to July 3, 2020. The Court will contact you with audioconference or videoconference details, and will advise if the start time will be changed.

Family trials and trial continuations scheduled from May 19 to July 3, 2020, will proceed on their original dates but will be heard as a pre-trial conference (not a trial) in order to determine whether the matter can be resolved or how to proceed. The court will contact you with videoconference or audioconference details for the pre-trial conference.

All other non-urgent family matters not mentioned above that are scheduled to proceed from May 19 to July 3, 2020 are adjourned. see Appendix “A” on page 14 (shaded in grey) in the Provincial Court notice for the next date.

New matters

Provincial Court registries are only accepting new, urgent family matters. You can apply by email, phone, mail, or fax (see next question). If a judge decides that a matter is urgent, a hearing/trial will be scheduled with everyone attending by telephone.

Duty counsel lawyers and family advice lawyers are still available by phone. For phone numbers and hours of service, please see this list.

 

Right now, the court may view the following issues to be urgent:

  • requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent;
  • requests to get or change protection orders (when you, your family, or your children are facing family violence, which includes physical, emotional, psychological harm or threats)
  • urgent orders involving parenting time, contact with a child, or communication between persons;
  • urgent issues related to the well-being of a child (including essential medical decisions, relocation, removal, or parenting time);
  • applications to suspend, change, or cancel any order for imprisonment or committal (related to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act)
  • urgent cases where irreparable harm will occur if the application isn't heard.

If you think your matter is urgent, apply using this Application for an Urgent Hearing form. Then send it:

If you aren’t sure if your matter is urgent, call duty counsel to discuss the issue.

During the period of reduced court operations due to COVID-19, you don't need to swear or affirm an affidavit that you're filing to support your request for an urgent family hearing. Submit your affidavit with your Application for an Urgent Hearing form.

You must still take care to ensure your affidavit is accurate and true. During the hearing to decide if your application is considered urgent, or during the hearing on your application if it does move forward, the judge will likely require you to swear or affirm that the contents of your affidavit are true.

You can still submit documents by mail to your local Provincial Court registry. However, at this time, non-urgent matters are not being processed.

When you work with the ministry on your child’s plan of care, there are different stages in the process. Whether you’re participating in mediation, scheduling a family case conference, or waiting for a court hearing, the COVID-19 crisis could affect your next steps. Most operations of the Provincial Court of British Columbia are suspended at all locations at least until May 16, 2020.

If you’re scheduled for a child protection case conference

Child protection case conferences scheduled between March 16 and May 16, 2020, are delayed. You’ll receive notification by May 4, 2020, regarding the next date you must go to court.

If your child has been removed and you have a date for a court hearing

The initial presentation hearing or protection hearing will go ahead at the scheduled time and day (or on the court “list day”) by phone.

If you aren’t sure whether you’re at a hearing or conference stage

Contact your social worker or lawyer to check if you need to attend court by phone or if court has been delayed. It’s really important you don’t miss your court hearing. If you don’t have access to a telephone, talk to your social worker or lawyer to figure out a solution.

If you think your matter is urgent

Only new urgent family matters will go ahead. If a judge decides that a matter is urgent, a hearing/trial will be scheduled with everyone attending by phone. This includes applications for supervision orders and for extension of time, and any other urgent motions or hearings. If you think your matter is urgent, apply using this Application for an Urgent Hearing form. Then send it:

If you need help with your case

No matter which stage you’re at in the child protection process, you can get help. If there's a Parents Legal Centre in your community, call them to get help by phone. These centres have free lawyers and advocates to help parents deal with a social worker's concerns about their children's safety. Or call the Legal Aid BC Call Centre for where to find legal aid services in your community.

Don't see your question here? Email us.

Page last updated: Thursday, April 23, 2020, 12:30 hrs

Get more help

For more information about Provincial Court of BC operations, see the COVID-19 page on the court website.