covid-19, coronavirus

The global COVID-19 public health emergency continues to spread and create challenges for families and businesses worldwide. This also includes litigants in all levels of courts in BC. The courts’ directives change frequently. We will keep you posted of any new changes.

Our divorce lawyers are fully equipped to work remotely with no disruption to our services. If you have a divorce or family law case, contact us. We can help.

How is BC Court of Appeal responding to Covid-19/Coronavirus regarding family or divorce hearings?

The BC Court of Appeal directive, dated March 17, 2020 allows you file your appeal materials to commence an appeal (i.e. Notice of Appeal or Application for Leave to Appeal) in accordance with the Rules, however, after which the appeal is suspended. Note the directive suggests that in person filing of the materials may be possible but only under limited circumstances. The court recommends that you e-file, fax file, or file your materials by mail, when possible. With respect to current appeals and applications on the docket between March 18, 2020 and May 1, 2020, the court will only hear urgent matters. If your hearing is to proceed, you will be notified by telephone and the hearing will be in writing by telephone. This is in contrast to the previous directive, which requested parties to adjourn none urgent matters by consent.

The directive states as follows:

“This notice applies to both civil and criminal appeals.

To protect the health of litigants, court staff, judges and members of the public and to help contain the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the Court of Appeal is strictly limiting its operations through this direction by the Chief Justice of British Columbia, effective 18 March 2020, and until further notice. The Court plays a fundamental role in our constitutional democracy and must provide access to justice on the most urgent matters at all times. The limitations described in this notice ensure that the Court continues to hear the most urgent matters while responding proportionally to the COVID-19 international pandemic.

New Appeals and Applications for Leave to Appeal

Parties should continue to file and serve notices of appeal or applications for leave to appeal within required time periods.

The Court of Appeal registry will continue to accept filings. However, to support social distancing, the registry counter will close and all are encouraged to file new appeals and applications for leave to appeal electronically (for civil appeals), by fax, by mail (filing date to be backdated to the post-mark date), or, if none of those options is available, you may contact the registry by phone. For mail filings please attach a cheque or instructions regarding whom to contact for payment of court filing fees.

After filing and serving new notices of appeal or applications for leave to appeal, all subsequent filing and service deadlines will be suspended and will start to run again beginning 4 May 2020, unless otherwise directed.

Existing Appeals and Applications

The filing and service deadlines for all existing appeals, existing applications for leave to appeal, or other existing matters before the Court are suspended and will start to run again beginning 4 May 2020, except for those matters designated by the Chief Justice as matters that must proceed, or unless otherwise directed.

In other words, litigants should not file any new materials related to existing appeals, existing applications for leave to appeal, or other existing matters prior to 4 May 2020, unless advised that the appeal is a matter that must proceed, or unless otherwise directed.

Appeal Hearings and Chambers Applications Currently Scheduled to occur between 18 March 2020 and May 1, 2020

All appeal hearings, chambers applications and other matters currently scheduled to occur between 18 March 2020 and 1 May 2020 are adjourned unless designated by the Chief Justice as matters that must proceed.

The Court is examining its docket and creating a list on an ongoing basis of matters that must proceed (for example, urgent criminal, family law or child protection matters). Litigants to an appeal designated as a matter that must proceed will be contacted by the registry and the matter will be presumptively heard remotely by teleconference or in writing.

For matters that are not designated as matters that must proceed, parties who consent to have their appeal, chambers application, or other matter heard by teleconference or in writing may contact the registrar in writing to request the permission of the Chief Justice, or his delegate, to proceed by alternative means.

Further information will follow regarding the rescheduling of adjourned appeals, chambers applications and other matters.”

How is BC Supreme Court responding to Covid-19/Coronavirus regarding family or divorce hearings?

As of March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court website’s states as follows:

Supreme Court of British Columbia – Closure of Courthouses and Suspension of All Regular Court Operations

As part of the Court’s efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia has ordered the suspension of all regular operations, effective immediately and until further notice. It is a constitutional imperative that the courts must remain open; however, in light of the extraordinary circumstances during the current public health emergency, members of the public who do not have urgent business before the court are discouraged from attending any courthouse. Any matter scheduled for an appearance today shall proceed unless the presiding judge orders otherwise. All regular hearings scheduled after today are adjourned indefinitely.

Adjustments will be made to accommodate the hearing of urgent matters. Further details concerning urgent and emergency matters and the running of timelines will follow shortly.”

Until March 17, 2020, the court requested that parties reschedule any non-urgent matters. With respect to family matters, the court’s directive stated:

“The Court requests that lawyers and parties consider agreeing to adjourn matters (criminal, civil or family), scheduled to proceed between now and May 31, 2020 that do not urgently need to proceed.

    • For applications to adjourn criminal proceedings, whether by consent or contested, the Court will offer a new process by telephone or video appearance. Criminal proceedings adjourned because of Covid-19 will receive priority for re-scheduling.
    • For applications to adjourn civil or family proceedings (whether trials or chambers applications) some changes will be introduced to the current processes to minimize in- court appearances where possible.More details will be available early next week about the processes for adjournments and applications to adjourn.”

Chilliwack (until further notice), Nanaimo (until March 23, 2020), and Campbell River (until March 23, 2020) court houses are closed as of the date of this blog as a court participant at each of these court locations has been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

How is BC Provincial Court responding to Covid-19/Coronavirus regarding family or divorce hearings?

The Provincial Court’s directive states as follows:

“Family case conferences and CFCSA case conferences scheduled between March 16 and May 4, 2020 will not proceed so the parties should not attend Court. The parties will receive notification by May 4, 2020 regarding the next date they must attend Court.

Only urgent family, CFCSA, and FMEA matters as determined by a judge will be heard, including:

a. requests for urgent relief relating to the safety of a child or parent;
b. requests to obtain or set aside protection orders, or urgent orders involving parenting time, contact with a child or communication between parties;
c. urgent issues that must be determined relating to the well-being of a child including essential medical decisions or issues relating to relocation, non-removal, wrongful removal or retention of a child;
d. in a child protection case, all urgent or statutorily mandated matters, including the initial presentation hearing, the protection hearing, applications for supervision orders and for extension of time, and any other urgent motions or hearings; and
e. applications to suspend, change or cancel any order for imprisonment or committal pursuant to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act.

Applications to a judge for determining if the matter is urgent can be sent by fax to fax filing registries (see GEN 01 Practice Direction) or by mail to the applicable court registry until further notice.

All non-urgent family matters, including trials, scheduled to proceed between March 18 and May 16, 2020 are adjourned without the parties having to attend Court. See Adjournment Details for more information.

The Provincial Court registries will not accept any new non-urgent family filings between March 18, 2020 and May 16, 2020.”

Chilliwack (until further notice), Nanaimo (until March 23, 2020), and Campbell River (until March 23, 2020) court houses are closed as of the date of this blog as a court participant at each of these court locations has been in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

If you have an urgent family or divorce case and you require immediate assistance, contact us. We are fully remote and have capabilities to take on your file immediately with no wait list. We have your back. Divorce with confidence.