A fresh perspective on divorce, spousal support, child support, parenting after separation and everything family law

Family Court: go and watch

Almost every client I have who has not been to court before – and is considering bringing a court application or starting a court action – wants to know what is going to happen during their time in the courthouse.

When I am asked the question “what is court going to be like” my usual answer, after giving a general explanation of the court process, is: “go and check it out to see first hand…admission is free”. The public can watch proceedings in the British Columbia Supreme Court and British Columbia Provincial Court on most weekdays.

In British Columbia there are certain proceedings that are closed that are closed to the public (i.e. you cannot watch them without permission from the court). For example, you will not be able to watch Judicial Case Conferences and cases that have publicity bans. The majority of cases, however, are open to the public.

If you would like to go and watch court, to get an idea of what it is all about, you can find the Court Registry in your region online.

If there is a specific case you want to watch, a specific Justice, Judge or Master you would like to see or a specific type of proceeding that you would like to learn about, you can find the court room and time by looking at the Hearing Lists online.

Often the most useful proceedings to watch, if you are involved in a family law case, are family law chambers. During family law chambers you will usually be able to see a number of different types of issues being dealt with (for example child support, spousal support and parenting time) in one morning. You will also get the opportunity to see a number of different lawyers arguing different cases.


Avoid not knowing what is going on… go and spend a morning at court

Provincial Court of British Columbia: jurisdiction over a pet dog

A recent Provincial Court of British Columbia decision made a ruling about a pet dog.

While courts have been reluctant to make custody or access orders in regard to family pets, in the decision of Custodio v. Pucci, the Honourable Judge J. Challenger found that the court had jurisdiction to make an order in regard to family pets (if they are treated as property):

The court has jurisdiction under s. 3(1)(b) of the Act to order the return of a dog as a dog is considered a piece of property.  In Watson v. Hayward, a decision of my sister Judge Dhillon, rendered July 2, 2002 reported at 2002 BCPC 259 (CanLII), 2002 BCPC 259, she canvassed the legal principles applicable in such a matter.

On such an application the court must consider whether there is an issue to be tried, and I am satisfied on Ms. Custodio’s evidence that there is an issue to be tried, whether she has demonstrated a strong prima facie case and based on the documents and her evidence, if that was accepted by the court, indeed she has a strong prima facie case and likely a strong case at trial.  The third issue is whether irreparable harm will result not compensable by damages at common law if the interim order is not granted and, finally, where the balance of convenience lies.

Judge Dhillon distinguished cases involving pets from cases involving inanimate pieces of property.  That case involved a breeder who had reclaimed a dog as a result of what was alleged to be neglect of the dog by the person who had purchased it from the breeder which distinguishes the case on its facts.

The “Act” that is being referred to above is the Small Claims Act.  Section 3(1)(b) of that Act gives the Provincial Court of British Columbia:

3  (1) The Provincial Court has jurisdiction in a claim for

(a) debt or damages,

(b) recovery of personal property,

(c) specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services, or

(d) relief from opposing claims to personal property

if the amount claimed or the value of the personal property or services is equal to or less than an amount that is prescribed by regulation, excluding interest and costs.

(2) The Provincial Court does not have jurisdiction in a claim for libel, slander or malicious prosecution.

So, if your family pet is worth $25,000.00 or less, you can bring a claim in the Provincial Court of British Columbia (see Small Claims BC as a starting point).  If your pet is worth more than $25,000.00 the Supreme Court of British Columbia would be the court to hear your case (unless you decide to abandon the portion of your claim over $25,000.00, in which case you could still proceed in the Provincial Court of British Columbia).

“If you are keeping a white lion cub (apparently $138,000.00) as a pet in British Columbia you are going to have some other legal issues arise …”