Steps in the Early Resolution Process
On May 17, 2021, the new Provincial Court Family Rules and forms were implemented.
Surrey and Victoria are the only court locations using early resolution (designated as Early Resolution Registries). Other locations may be designated in the future.
In most cases, the Early Resolution and Case Management process will look like this:
- The Surrey or Victoria Justice Access Centre (JAC) is the best place to get information about where and how to start and make an appointment for a needs assessment.
- You can talk to the JAC about your options for when to do this step, but when you are ready, file a form called the Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter at the Surrey or Victoria Court Registry. A copy of this must be given to the other party but it can be done by email or text - it does not have to be formally served.
You must complete an individual needs assessment with a Family Justice Counsellor at the JAC. An assessment involves talking to a Family Justice Counsellor about your situation, issues to be resolved and what supports might be helpful to your family. You will also be provided with referrals to get early legal advice.
As part of the needs assessment, the Family Justice Counsellor will discuss with you whether consensual dispute resolution (usually mediation) is appropriate.
If there are issues of power imbalances, safety or family violence, the Family Justice Counsellor will consider whether or not it's possible to adapt the dispute resolution process to make it safe for people to take part or may determine that mediation is not appropriate. The other parties involved will also complete an individual needs assessment.
- You will need to complete the Parenting After Separation Program (PAS) unless you have completed it within the last two years or meet one of the few exemptions (find out more about what those are by talking to staff at the JAC). PAS is free and available online 24/7.
- If the Family Justice Counsellor determines consensual dispute resolution is appropriate, you must take part in at least one consensual dispute resolution session, as well as preparation for the session. This can happen in a number of ways.
A Family Justice Counsellor or Child Support Officer at the Justice Access Centre can provide services free-of-charge.
Or you may decide to hire a private family mediator (who meets the requirements of being a family dispute resolution professional under s. 4 of the Family Law Act) or participate in a private collaborative law process under a collaborative participation agreement.
- When issues have been resolved, it's a good idea to formalize the agreement. You can choose to file the agreement with the court registry or apply to the court for a consent order.
If issues are resolved through services provided at the Surrey or Victoria Justice Access Centre, staff can document the arrangements in a written agreement or consent order, refer you to resources who can give legal advice and help you understand how to file that agreement or order.
- If there are issues remaining that weren’t resolved, you must file a form called the Application About a Family Law Matter to proceed with the court process. It must be formally served on the other party who can file a reply.
The Family Management Conference is your first appearance in court. This is a less formal meeting with a judge to clarify the issues and options for resolution. The judge may make orders, including consent orders, interim (temporary) orders about your family law matters, or case management orders to make sure your case is ready for the next step.
There are also other changes to the rules including how protection orders and priority parenting matters (time sensitive decisions concerning a child) are addressed. The forms and process for consent orders are also changed. New forms are introduced to replace the current notice of motion process including forms for case management orders, applications for an order prohibiting relocation and enforcement matters.
For more information see the Justice Access Centre and if possible a lawyer, who can help you understand the best process for a particular dispute.
Are the forms for the early resolution process different from the regular family forms?
As of May 17, 2021, all provincial court locations, including Surrey and Victoria, are using the same family forms. The only form unique to an Early Resolution Registry is the Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter.
The court forms are at the court registry. They're also available as fillable PDFs on the B.C. government Provincial Family Forms page.
The forms include:
- Instructions for completing the form
- Workbooks for all the application forms and the more complex forms. (The workbooks provide more guidance on how to respond to a question and where to get more information.)