BC Supreme Court Announcement: Assize List Coming to Vancouver Supreme Court

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*You can see this blog post, among several others by the lawyers at Henderson Heinrichs LLP, over at the Henderson Heinrichs LLP website.*

One of the more frustrating aspects of family litigation is waiting for an available date to be able to bring on a court application in Chambers.  The BC Supreme Court recently made an announcement that may simplify the process of getting a hearing date when a party to litigation needs to apply to court for an order.  The Court has announced the introduction of the use of an “assize week” system of scheduling long chambers applications  in the Vancouver Registry.

Applications in Chambers, which generally deal with temporary orders as opposed to final orders, are common in family law because there are often issues that must be dealt with immediately and can’t wait for a trial 12 months away.  Some examples of matters that can be heard by way of an application include: interim child support applications, applications for exclusive use of the family home, orders for sale of property, and interim applications for parenting time.

Often several applications on the same file are heard at once (for example, child support and spousal support, along with parenting orders), which is usually a more efficient way of dealing with disagreements between parties than having multiple court appearances, but having multiple issues heard at once makes it more likely that they become what is known as a “Lengthy Chambers” application, meaning one that is expected to take two or more hours of court time.  The difficulty arising from trying to schedule a lengthy Chambers application is that it can be difficult to get a hearing date within a reasonable period of time.  The process for setting your hearing date for lengthy Chambers applications is that you must schedule your hearing directly with the Supreme Court Registry.  To do that, you must wait until the Court Registry releases available lengthy Chambers dates, which fill up very quickly, and once they are full you have to wait for the next release, usually several weeks away.  At the time of publishing this article, there are currently no available Lengthy Chambers dates for family court files.

The recent announcement by the BC Supreme Court, that parties will have the option to sign up for an Assize week, will help to relieve some of that difficulty.  Signing up for the Assize List means that both parties agree that they will make themselves available for a hearing on short notice during a one-week period.  This will allow parties to have lengthy Chambers applications heard without having to wait for the release of Chambers dates, and will allow them to have time sensitive lengthy Chambers applications heard more swiftly.  In the writer’s view, this is a positive step for family litigants in Vancouver who require court intervention.  The result is an improvement to access to justice for Vancouver family law litigants, and an increase in the efficiency of the court system.

To read the Court’s announcement, go here: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/supreme_court/documents/Chambers%20Assize%20List%20Vancouver.pdf

*Nothing in this post constitutes legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. To establish a solicitor-client relationship with Virginia K. Richards please contact her at Henderson Heinrichs LLP using the information on the Contact Page.

Ex Tapes: Recording Marital Discord

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*You can see this blog post, among several others by the lawyers at Henderson Heinrichs LLP, over at the Henderson Heinrichs LLP website.*

One of the most difficult challenges survivors of abuse in custody and guardianship cases face is proving to the judge that they have been abused.  Abuse survivors are often faced with the risk of being found to be exaggerating or fabricating their allegations in order to gain an upper hand in the litigation.  Sadly, survivors are put in a position of having to decide whether their evidence is “good enough” such that they will be believed.  Some survivors choose not to lead evidence regarding abuse because they are concerned that it will have a negative impact on how the court will view their credibility.

In the recent BC Supreme Court decision of N.D.T. v. T.F.T., 2016 BCSC 134, the Claimant was successful in proving her allegations of abuse.  She was able to show that the Respondent had been verbally abusive, that the abuse had taken place in the presence of the parties’ children, and that the Respondent’s conduct reflected his capacity to parent the children.  The BC Family Law Act explicitly requires BC Courts to consider the impact of family violence on children, whether or not it has been directed at the children.  The Claimant, referred to in Mr. Justice Saunders’ judgment as “Ms. T”, consequently won her claims for custody, guardianship and parenting time.  Her method of proof: video recordings.

Ms. T had video recorded the parties’ arguments for a period of approximately two years leading up to the date of separation.  Videos of 19 separate incidents were admitted into evidence.  That takes riphone_notes.jpgeal forethought!

What makes Ms. T’s success even more remarkable is that she won despite an expert report that made recommendations that Ms. T should get counselling to shift her focus away from drawing the children into the conflict and “placing blame” on her husband.

In the past, BC courts have been disapproving of surreptitious recordings in family cases.  Recording a former spouse without permission has been viewed as contributing to mistrust and conflict between parties; and yet time and time again videos and audio recordings are admitted into evidence.  In this case, one has to wonder if Ms. T would have been so resolutely successful on the parenting issues had she not been so proactive in collecting evidence during the marriage.

It feels unsettling to think that unhappy spouses will start recording each other’s worst moments for years on end with the aim to build a case for a family law trial.  However, with recording devices literally at everyone’s finger tips, we can expect more of this evidence to come.

*Nothing in this post constitutes legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. To establish a solicitor-client relationship with Virginia K. Richards please contact her at Henderson Heinrichs LLP using the information on the Contact Page.

Back Up Before You Shack Up! Seven Essential Steps to Take Before Moving in Together

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1. Understand what you are getting into. Did you know that in British Columbia you become a spouse pursuant to the Family Law Act if you have lived in a “marriage-like relationship” for two or more years? Did you know that you can become responsible for child support of your partner’s children if you are a) a spouse of the parent , and b) have contributed to the support of the child for as little as a year? Living together is serious business, and so it is important to go into it with eyes wide open.

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2. See a family lawyer. Have you read the Family Law Act? Well, if you are thinking of moving in with your love, you ought to familiarize yourself with the basics of the Act because it will govern what happens to family property and family debt if your relationship ends. Even with just one appointment, a BC Family Law Lawyer can help you understand the basic rights and responsibilities imposed by the Family Law Act when you cohabit with your romantic partner.

3. Take Stock. What assets and liabilities do you have? Once you become a spouse, you can be sued for property division and spousal support if your relationship ends. Now is the time to tally up the assets you have and to consider whether your income level exposes you to a potential spousal support claim. It’s a good idea to print off a copy of all of your bank accounts, investments and debts so that you have a record of the balances as at the time you started living together. Keep those records tucked away just in case.

4. Think carefully before giving away your furniture. Assets brought into the relationship are yours to keep, but you lose that benefit if you dispose of them during the relationship. Furniture purchased after you move in together will likely be family property, subject to division upon relationship breakdown.

5. Talk to your partner about your expectations. The time to sort out the division of household duties is before you move in together. This would be a good time to think about how each of you will contribute to household expenses. Consider couples counselling if either of you are finding it difficult to have these conversations. The time to establish effective communication is now!

6. Appraise real property. If you have real property (ie. a house, condominium, or other land) you should consider getting an appraisal. In general, property that you bring into a spousal relationship is excluded from division but the increase to excluded assets is divided between you. In urban areas in British Columbia, real property often can increase in value by tens of thousands of dollars within a short time. It is important that you know what the value is at the outset so that if your relationship does break down, you know your exposure to a claim by your spouse.

7. Consider a cohabitation agreement. A properly executed cohabitation agreement can help you define the expectations you each have for living together, and reduce the chance of litigation if you do break up. You can use a cohabitation to alter or completely opt out of the rules set out in the Family Law Act. One of the requirements of a cohabitation agreement is that both spouses understand the nature and consequences of the agreement, so make sure that you see a lawyer before signing anything.

*Nothing in this post constitutes legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. To establish a solicitor-client relationship with Virginia K. Richards please contact her at Henderson Heinrichs LLP using the information on the Contact Page.