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How to Deal with Urgent Family Matters in the Provincial Courts During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Women dealing with intimate partner violence are facing challenges further complicated by the COVID-19 outbreak. Those who need protection from abusive partners, or need help with urgent family law issues that arise around the parenting and care of a child, may not know what to do during current circumstances. 

Are courts being suspended? Can women still obtain protection orders if they are trying to leave an abusive partner? Let’s look at how to have an urgent matter heard during this pandemic. 

Are courts suspended? 
  • To protect the health of staff and the public, the Provincial and Supreme Courts of British Columbia have suspended their regular operations.  

  • In Provincial Court, family case conferences, family management conferences and child protection conferences scheduled between March 16 and May 16, 2020, will not be going ahead.  

  • All non-urgent provincial court family matters, including trials scheduled to proceed between March 18 and May 16, 2020, are also adjourned without the parties having to attend court.  

  • In the Supreme court, all family matters scheduled for hearing between March 19, 2020, and May 1, 2020, are adjourned, unless directed otherwise by the court. This automatic adjournment extends to all trials, conferences and chambers applications or other hearings currently scheduled for hearing before May 1, 2020. 

  • Parties will receive notification by May 4, 2020, regarding the next date they must attend court.  

What about urgent matters?  
  • Urgent family matters are still being heard by the Provincial and Supreme Courts. These include applications for protection orders, relocation, denial of parenting time, medical decisions, and other urgent issues affecting the well-being of children.  

  • To avoid having to travel to a courthouse or registry, or appear in person, a process has been outlined by the courts for filing applications through email (Provincial Court) and online (Supreme Court). 

  • To bring an urgent application, parties must apply to the court for permission by way of an Application for Urgent Hearing (Provincial Court) or by using an online form (Supreme Court).  

  • If the court believes your matter is urgent, then a hearing will be scheduled. Nobody will appear in person – the hearing will occur by telephone or teleconference (where available).  

If you believe you have an urgent matter, you can find information on how to apply below:  

YWCA Legal Education Resource: How to Deal With Urgent Family Matters During COVID-19 Pandemic in the Provincial Courts  

As of March 25, 2020, the Provincial Courts of BC have suspended regular operations. Between March 18, 2020, and May 16, 2020, only urgent family matters, as determined by a judge, will be heard over a telephone hearing. These may include: 

- Requests for immediate relief relating to the safety of a child or parent 

- Requests to obtain or set aside protection orders 

- Urgent orders involving parenting time 

- Contact with a child or communication between parties 

- Urgent issues relating to the well-being of the child including: 

  • Essential medical issues 
  • Relocation issues 
  • Non-removal of a child 
  • Wrongful removal of a child
  • Wrongful retention of a child
  • Applications to suspend, change or cancel any order for imprisonment or committal under the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act
  • Urgent or mandatory child protection matters 
How to have an urgent matter heard  

You can make an application to a judge for determining if a matter is urgent by emailing your registry a completed application for urgent hearing form. If a judge determines that a matter is urgent, a hearing/trial will be scheduled through a hub court (Robson Square in Vancouver, Surrey in Fraser Valley) with everyone appearing by telephone. The hearing/trial will NOT be in person. The hub court will call you on the day of your telephone hearing. You should hear back if your application is denied.  

Registry 

Telephone 

Email 

Robson Square 

604-660-8989 

Richmond 

604-660-6900 

North Van 

604-981-0200 

Surrey  

604-572-2200 

New West 

604-660-8522 

Port Coquitlam 

604-927-2700 

Please note: you may receive a call back and (if your matter is very urgent) have a hearing the same day you apply, so stay close to your phone and e-mail and have your materials ready. Be ready to make your case as soon as you apply. If you have a lawyer, make sure your lawyer is available and prepared to speak to the judge.  As of April 15, 2020, the materials (i.e. affidavit) filed with requests for an urgent hearing do not need to be sworn or affirmed by a lawyer or commissioner. You can just submit them with your application.

Copyright YWCA Legal Education Program, 2020. The information provided in this blog post does not constitute legal advice. Please be careful when using this information as it may be out of date or may not apply to your particular situation. This information is current as of March 25, 2020.            

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