Early Resolution and Case Management Process

On December 7, 2020, the provincial court registries in Surrey and Victoria adopted the early resolution and case management aspects of the new Provincial Court Family Rules. 

The early resolution process uses amended rules and forms [PDF, 2.36MB]. These changes apply now. They are explained in detail in Surrey and Victoria Early Resolution Explained [PDF, 558KB].

The Early Resolution and Case Management Model started in Victoria in 2019 as a new process in the Provincial Court Rules. It was designed to encourage parties to resolve family disputes by agreement or to help them get just and timely decisions in provincial court. Feedback from the public consultation on the Provincial Court Family Rules as well on the Victoria process have helped improve the early resolution and case management process.

What is the Early Resolution and Case Management process?

The early resolution and case management process applies to issues under the Family Law Act. It introduces early resolution requirements for family law matters in provincial court in the Surrey and Victoria registries.

Family law matters are defined as:

  • Parenting arrangements (parenting time and parenting responsibilities)
  • Child support
  • Contact with a child
  • Guardianship of a child, and
  • Spousal support

In addition to the early resolution requirements, this process provides a family management conference which replaces first appearance and provides increased case management. This will help with further dispute resolution and help ensure parties are prepared if they need to go to trial.

There are other changes including new, more user-friendly forms and improved processes for things like orders by consent and case management orders.

The process aims to build knowledge, support problem solving and help parties prepare for next steps.

How did this change come about?

The Ministry of Attorney General and the Provincial Court of British Columbia are working together on a project to reform the entire Provincial Court (Family) Rules. The early resolution process implemented in the Surrey and Victoria registries builds on public consultation as well as feedback and improvements made to the process implemented in Victoria in 2019.

Who will use the new process and when does it start?

Starting December 7, 2020, the Early Resolution and Case Management process applies when family law cases are filed in the Surrey Registry or the Victoria Registry of the Provincial Court of BC.

Early resolution applies where people want to resolve family law matters, such as:

  • Parenting arrangements
  • Child support 
  • Contact with a child 
  • Guardianship of a child
  • Spousal support

Surrey and Victoria are the only court locations in the province that will use the new process at this time.

If you have filed an application for an order, application respecting existing orders or agreements, or notice of motion in Surrey or Victoria before December 7, 2020 that application will continue under the process that was in place when your application was filed.

Applications filed in Surrey or Victoria after December 7, 2020 will use the new process and forms.

For Victoria, the overall process remains the same, but there have been some improvements made to rules and forms.

For more information contact the Surrey or Victoria JAC and if possible, also talk to a lawyer, who can help you understand the best process for a particular dispute.

Learn more about who will use the new process.

What if I need to get a court order right away for something like a Protection Order? 

The Surrey and Victoria Early Resolution and Case Management Model includes a process for seeking protection orders or orders for priority parenting matters on a time sensitive basis. These issues will not use the early resolution process.

A judge will hear those matters first. If there are outstanding family law matters, families will be referred to the early resolution and case management process to address those issues.

There are also some processes and orders that will use new forms under this model but they will not require early assessment or consensual dispute resolution:

  • Relocation
  • Matters that are proceeding by consent, and
  • Enforcement

The Surrey or Victoria Justice Access Centre can help a person identify their needs, get referrals to community resources and get help with the paperwork to file an application for a court order.

What is the new process most people will follow?

Most people will use the Early Resolution and Case Management process for their parenting arrangements, child support, contact with a child, guardianship of a child and /or spousal support. You can learn more about each step of the process and the forms [here], but generally, the process will involve:

  • Starting at the Surrey or Victoria Justice Access Centre (JAC) to get information about your options, the process and how to access legal advice and other resources.
  • Filing a form called the Notice to Resolve at the Victoria Provincial Court Registry.
  • Contacting the JAC to make an appointment for your individual needs assessment.
  • Complete an individual needs assessment with a Family Justice Counsellor at the JAC.
  • Complete the Parenting After Separation program unless you have completed it within the last two years or meet one of the few exemptions (the JAC staff can identify for you if an exemption applies).
  • Participate in at least one consensual dispute resolution session (including any required preparation for the session), if appropriate.
  • When issues are resolved you can formalize your agreements by written agreement or consent order.
  • If there are still issues that need to be resolved, and you need the Court’s help, file a form called Application about a Family Law Matter with all your supporting documents and serve it on the other party.
  • When you and the other party (or parties) have replied or the time for reply has passed, work with the Judicial Case Manager to schedule a Family Management Conference.
  • At the Family Management Conference, you and the other party (or parties) will meet with a judge.

The new process supports earlier and more durable resolutions, which reduces conflict and builds skills that can help prevent future conflict. Most participants will benefit from the new process.  Each step has been designed to support opportunities to resolve issues and help prepare the parties for next steps.

Learn more about each step in the process and the new forms.

Will the new process cost families more?

The Justice Access Centres will provide legal information, needs assessment, referrals and consensual dispute resolution services free of charge.
People with lower incomes may be eligible for free limited legal advice through Legal Aid BC. Please see these links to find out about the services and who is eligible:

Parties may choose to hire a lawyer and they may hire a private family mediator or take part in a collaborative law agreement with a collaborative family law professional.

Where can I find more information?

If you would like more information, you may be interested in:

The forms are available in printed format at the court registry and as fillable PDFs on the BC Government website's Provincial Family Forms page.