Surrey will soon be home to a new dispute-resolution process that aims to help families reach agreement without going to court.
The model provides services to families “in a less adversarial environment,” according to the Ministry of Attorney General in a news release posted Sunday (Sept. 20).
Effective Dec. 7, the Surrey registry will adopt the early-resolution aspects of the new Provincial Court Family Rules in addressing parenting arrangements, child support, contact with a child, guardianship of a child, spousal support, relocation and protection from family violence.
A similar program was launched in 2019 in Victoria, where it has reduced court time and the number of matters brought to court for family disputes, according to the ministry.
The model helps people resolve family law matters by providing information, assessment and consensual dispute resolution. Where appropriate, it helps family members reach agreement without going to court. When court is required, it helps identify and narrow the issues and prepare the parties for court.
“The expansion of this project to Surrey is a significant step in the transformation of family justice in British Columbia,” stated David Eby, Attorney General.
“By helping people resolve their disputes earlier and with less conflict, we’re keeping the focus on the best interests of families and children.”
With the new model, the Surrey Justice Access Centre will provide an initial needs determination and an assessment with a family justice counsellor, according to the news release. The assessment will identify legal and non-legal issues and determine whether it is appropriate for the individual to participate in consensual dispute resolution.
Parties may be referred to free parenting education and, if appropriate, at least one free consensual dispute-resolution session through the Justice Access Centres and Family Justice Centres. Alternatively, people may hire private mediators or collaborative law professionals. People seeking orders for priority parenting matters or protection orders on a time sensitive basis will proceed directly to court.
CLICK HERE to read the news release on the B.C. government website.