By Justice Services Branch, the Ministry of Attorney General, British Columbia
On May 17, 2021, a full new set of Provincial Court Family Rules (PCFR) will be implemented. The rules were updated when the Family Law Act was implemented in 2013, however, the last substantial reform of the PCFR was in 1998.
What is changing?
There are substantial changes to forms, terminology, and processes.
Why are the rules changing?
The new rules aim to help families to reduce conflict and work towards earlier resolutions outside the court process, make court process and forms user friendly, and make each court appearance meaningful and productive. The Ministry of Attorney General and the Provincial Court jointly led the modernization of the rules supported by a dedicated working group and informed by a public consultation.
What are these rules used for?
The rules apply in Provincial Court to:
- (a) FLA family law matters (parenting arrangements, child support, contact with a child, guardianship of a child, spousal support);
- (b) protection orders under the Family Law Act;
- (c) priority parenting matters;
- (d) relocation; and
- (e) enforcement, including enforcement of support orders under the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act.
The PCFR do not apply to child protection matters, adoption, divorce, property or pension division.
What are some key points?
- Know your registry. An existing case with the same parties can continue in the same registry, but new cases (if the issue is child-related) will be filed in the registry closest to where the child lives most of the time and if there is no child-related issue involved, then the registry closest to where the filing party lives.
- The Notice of Motion is being replaced by subject specific forms.
- The Family Management Conference becomes the first step in court proceedings about family law matters to provide active case management and meaningful, better utilized, court appearances.
- Priority matters, including protection orders have distinct processes and forms to address those applications in a timely manner.
What about transition?
The new rules are effective province-wide May 17, 2021. Cases started before that will carry on under the new rules. The new forms must be used as of May 17, 2021; the only exception is a short grace period allowed for the old version of the Reply and Financial Statement.
Where do I find the new rules and forms?
The new rules and forms are in BC Reg 120/2020 (please use the consolidated version). Upon implementation, the new forms will be available on the provincial family court forms page of the BC government website. After implementation, we will also begin to offer several key forms in a user-friendly online app format.
Where can I find out more?
A section by section explanation of the new rules can be found in Provincial Court Family Rules (PCFR) Explained (also listed on Clicklaw). For family lawyers, a CLE about the new PCFR will be held on April 20, 2021 with several rebroadcasts scheduled for May, June and July. Upon implementation, additional information will be available on the websites of the BC government, the Provincial Court of BC and public legal information and education sites such as Clicklaw.bc.ca or Legal Aid BC’s Family Law in BC website.
(May 12, 2021) A note from Clicklaw Editor: For plain language resources, check out the list on Clicklaw’s common question How do the new Provincial Court Family Rules affect my family law matter? (bit.ly/clicklaw-pcfr)