Going To Court: A Comprehensive Guide

Upon deciding to separate, a common law or a married couple has two choices: They can settle through out-of-court negotiations such as mediation, which results in a written separation agreement, or allow the Court to settle their issues. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, like mediation and collaborative law, which operate out of Court, work best when the two parties can work together relatively calmly and cooperatively in an informal but structured process. All types of ADR and Court proceedings require full disclosure of income, assets and debts.

In contested family law situations, you may need the Court's help to eventually reach a reasonable conclusion of your case because your former spouse is putting up roadblocks, such as ignoring or refusing document disclosure requests. High-conflict cases' hallmark characteristic is that one or both former spouses provoke or create crisis situations where no dispute on the facts exists. At a trial, both sides' cases will be heard and assessed by a neutral party — the judge. While going to Court may seem unnecessary, it may be the only method to safeguard you and your children's rights, assets and even safety.

Westside Family Law's lawyers have extensive chambers, trial and appeal court experience representing Vancouver residents in BC's Courts. We are well-known for our professionalism, dedication and ingenuity in seeking practical resolutions for our clients.

Essential Information You Need For Court

Behind every good family law outcome is a mountain of meticulously drafted paperwork. In any family separation, divorce or family law dispute, obtaining and organizing relevant personal and corporate documentation is critical to do very early on in your case, especially when you're going to Court. The Court and mediators rely on this evidence to make decisions about your case, in addition to other types of evidence such as personal statements and expert testimony provided during the hearing. For example, documentation you may need includes:

  • Your marriage certificate, which you need to file for divorce in the first place
  • Banking and investment account statements from about three years
  • Mortgage documentation on local BC and internationally located real estate and vacation homes
  • Both personal and corporate income tax returns from the past three years
  • Loan agreements, credit card statements and other bills
  • Salary and paycheck information of both spouses
  • Insurance policies and pension benefits disclosure of annual statements
  • Valuation statements of high-value personal property like artwork, jewelry, boats, recreational equipment and other tangible assets that were not gifts to one spouse, but were shared family property (jewelry is often acquired as a gift so is not "family" property)

One thing to note: Technology exists that allows the average person to tamper with electronic records. Courts are now questioning the evidentiary law on electronic records. No longer will emails, MSN chatline conversations and even photographs be accepted at face value.

Although "a picture is worth a thousand words," it is not so much in family law. Generally speaking, photos are not evidence unless they contain relevant evidence of a fact at issue. The "best evidence" is the documentation and records that tend to prove your case or disprove your former spouse's case.

You should also consider writing daily notes in a diary or log of chronological events. Keeping accurate records of what was said or done months or even years ago can be invaluable when going to Court. Evidence is what the Court bases its decisions on, and never is a case won just on "he said, she said" argumentation.

Here's the bottom line: Even if you're still unsure whether separation is what you want, start making copies of your important documentation and logging conversations and events. It could save significant time and expense if you do end up going to Court.

Determining If You Need Outside Experts

Do you have significant investments or assets? Are you concerned about the effect of your separation on your children? Do you have tax questions? These important issues can be addressed by more than just your lawyer. You may need an accountant, a child specialist or a tax adviser, for example.

Think about which experts you might want or need to include. Talk to your lawyer about it. Expert evidence or testimony may play a large role in what the Court ultimately decides. At Westside Family Law, we have an extensive network of experts on whom we can call if it becomes necessary to making your case.

How Long Will Going To Court Take?

It depends. In some cases, the facts are so clear and organized that the Court doesn't require years to come to a decision. In others, especially where information is missing or misrepresented, the case will take longer to decide.

Generally speaking, your case will take from one to three years to get to a trial, and then between five to 10 days actually spent in Court. The trial will begin with opening statements from both sides and end with closing statements, which will:

  • Recite the key points of evidence
  • Summarize the applicable laws relevant to your position
  • Argue your desired resolution based on these facts

You Will Not Be Alone

The good news in all of this is that you do not have to go to Court alone. We are on your side and will help you through the process one step at a time. Call us at 604-800-8853 or send us an email to discuss your case today.