– By Ira Tee, Associate Lawyer
In the stress of separation, sometimes both spouses will simultaneously file claims in both Provincial and Supreme Court without the other spouse knowing. For example, one spouse will file in Supreme Court and the other will file in Provincial Court. Having ongoing court files in two courts on the same family law issues can be doubly time consuming, repetitive, and doubly expensive. So, what do you do when this happens, and you and your spouse find yourselves in this scenario?
It Depends What Orders You’re Seeking
If you and your spouse are married and are seeking orders for a divorce, or regarding the division of family property debt, the only court that can issue orders related to these issues is the Supreme Court. It would make most sense to have the family law matter proceed in Supreme Court if these are the issues you need determined. The Supreme Court is the only court that can make orders pursuant to the Divorce Act.
If you and your spouse are only dealing with issues relating to parenting time, child support, or spousal support, both the Provincial and Supreme Court can make orders relating to those issues.
Dividing the Issues Between the Courts
Sometimes it makes sense to divide the issues so that each court will deal with separate issues. For example, for the Supreme Court to rule on the issues of property and debt while the Provincial Court deals with the parenting and support issues. However, this can be a problem when one spouse seeks spousal support and there is family property, such as a house, to divide. Division of family property and spousal support can affect each other in the amount a spouse receives under either claim. It would not be a good use of court time and expense for the courts to hear evidence twice on the issue of support if it will be impacted by an order relating to division of property.
In high conflict family situations, sometimes the Supreme Court venue is better to have the consequences of costs orders against a party who seeks unreasonable orders or will not comply with court orders. However, this still results in legal expenses for the party seeking costs awards.
Consolidating the Proceedings
Oftentimes, it is better to have one level of court deal with all the issues if the court has jurisdiction to make the orders. The Family Law Act allows a party to apply to consolidate proceedings, but this order may not be made if one court has already pronounced orders or taken jurisdiction over some issues. Determining which court to apply to for relief depends on each party’s scenario.
If you find yourself in this situation or want to know which level of court to apply for relief, contact us today at Cote & Evans Trial Lawyers.