Adjournment: When a court hearing is postponed and reset for a later date.

Affidavit: A method of presenting evidence to the court by way of a written statement which has been sworn to be true before a lawyer or other commissioner for taking oaths. 

Annulment: The dissolution of a marriage whereby the marriage is legally declared null and void as though it never occurred.

Best Interests of the Child: A legal test used by the courts to make determinations respecting guardianship, parenting arrangements or contact with the child. The Best Interests of the Child test is set out at Section 37 of the Family Law Act of BC

Claimant: The party that initiates a family law proceeding by filing a Notice of Family Claim.

Cohabitation Agreement: A legally binding contract between two people who decide to live together in a marriage-like agreement that settles how they will resolve any potential legal issues between them in the event they separate. 

Court Action: A lawsuit or court proceeding. When a court proceeding is started, the court registry assigns your legal matter a number called an Action number and all documents filed in the court registry, as well as court hearings and trial are all linked to the same court action number.

Court Hearing: When one or both parties attend at court and ask a judge to decide on a legal matter or issue in dispute between them. A court hearing is generally shorter than a full trial and can range in time anywhere from 5-10 minutes in duration to several days or more.

Court Registry: The administrative offices located at each courthouse. Court Registries are the official keeper of all documents and records filed for court cases and Court Registry staff manage this information, as well as conduct various administrative duties necessary to the smooth running of BC courts. 

Court Sheriffs: Court Sheriffs provide security services to BC courts, as well as plan for and staff high security trials at all levels of court. They also transport in-custody persons, manage courthouse cell blocks, among other services.

Examination for Discovery: A pre-trial process whereby lawyers ask the opposing party (other spouse) questions that are relevant to a family law proceeding. The spouse being examined provides answers to the questions under oath and a court reporter transcribes the proceedings. Typically, an Examination for Discovery takes place at the office of a court reporter or in the boardroom of a law office. Examinations for Discovery are governed by Rule 9-7 of the Supreme Court Family Rules. 

Independent Legal Advice: Refers to an independent and confidential meeting between a lawyer and a separating spouse wherein that spouse gets legal advice specific to his or her circumstances.  The advice is given to ensure that a separating spouse fully understands his or her rights, responsibilities, and obligations under the law, as well as the impact any decisions or settlements may have on him or her legally.

Initial Consultation: An introductory meeting between a spouse (or former spouse) and a lawyer. At an Initial Consultation, the lawyer will typically ask questions about the circumstances of the case, provide general legal information, review legal options, and talk a little about that lawyer and his or her firm. Legal fees are also usually discussed.  An Initial Consultation is an opportunity for a spouse to learn more about the legal aspects of his or her case, obtain information about whether or not a lawyer is needed for his or her case, and if so, decide whether or not the lawyer and potential client will make a good fit. 

Interim Order: A Court Order which is made to temporarily settle issues such as parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support, etc. An Interim Order is an order that is made before a trial or Final Order. An Interim Order remains in effect until a final order is made by the court or a final settlement is reached, unless a specific end date is referenced in the Interim Order or the spouses agree otherwise.

Interrogatories: A formal set of written questions presented to a former spouse by another in a family law action. Interrogatories are governed by Rule 9-3 of the Supreme Court Family Rules

Judgement: A decision made by a judge that settles an issue in dispute or legal matter between the parties.

Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear and decide on a legal matter.

Litigation: A legal process wherein disputing parties utilize the court system to help determine their legal issues.

Marriage Agreement: A legally binding contract between married spouses that settles how they will resolve any potential legal issues between them in the event they separate. A Marriage Agreement also applies to people who are contemplating marriage and wish for the Marriage Agreement to take effect upon marriage. 

Parenting Arrangements: A legal term used to reference the parental responsibilities and parenting time a guardian may have with respect to a child. Parenting Arrangements are specifically referenced at Section 40 of the Family Law Act of BC. 

Personal Service: When one spouse is handed certain legal documents such as a Notice of Family Claim. Usually, professionals called process servers will personally provide these legal documents to the spouse. 

Pleadings: Pleadings refers to a group of documents prepared by a party and filed in the court such as the Notice of Family Claim, Response to Family Claim and Counterclaim.

Reconciliation: When two spouses get back together after a period of separation.

Respondent: A party who responds to a family law matter started by another party. The Respondent will typically file a Response to Family Claim and Counterclaim.

Retainer: A lump sum of money paid to a lawyer up front to secure their fees for their legal services. Retainers are held in a lawyer’s trust account and the funds held therein are used to pay the lawyer’s legal account, once rendered.

Retainer Agreement: A contract between a lawyer and a client outlining the terms and conditions upon which the lawyer has been hired (retained).

Separation Agreement: A legally binding contract between two spouses that outlines their terms of settlement arising from their legal issues. A formal Separation Agreement is signed by both spouses and each of their signatures have been witnessed by a third party. 

Settlement: An agreement between two disputing parties that resolves their legal issues.

Solicitor-Client Privilege: A term that applies to communications between a lawyer and his or her client for the purpose of legal advice and reflects the duty and responsibility of the lawyer to maintain those communications confidential.

Supreme Court Scheduling: The office responsible for scheduling all court matters and applications in the BC Supreme Courts. 

Without Prejudice: A phrase used to denote the intention that while comments or admissions may be made during and for the purpose of confidential settlement negotiations, these communications cannot be brought up later in court as evidence and used against the other party. The exception to this rule would be after a judge has made a determination on all matters, and the only remaining issue between the parties is costs.