COVID-19 and the Courts: Is Court Closed?
Many people have family law issues which they feel are urgent or an emergency and are asking whether they are able to pursue a remedy in court. Many clients are also under the impression that the courts are closed due to COVID-19. The courts are not closed, but access to the courts is limited. That means that both the Provincial Court of Alberta and the Court of Queen’s Bench are only hearing matters which they deem urgent or an emergency.
So which matters meet these definitions?
The Court of Queen’s Bench has defined the family matters it will hear as follows:
Emergency matters, in which serious consequences to persons or harm to property may arise if the hearing does not proceed, or if there is a risk of loss of jurisdiction or expiration of an existing protection or restraining order, including, but not limited to:
- Orders where there is a risk of violence or immediate harm to one of the parties or a child.
- Orders where there is a risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction.
- Emergency Protection Order reviews.
Urgent Matters Requiring Priority Attention:
- Subject to the prior approval of a Justice or Master as the case may be, matters that do not rise to the level of the first priority, but must nevertheless proceed in a timely way in the context of a reduction in Court services. These matters include, but are not limited to:
- Urgent orders relating to parenting time, contact or communication with a child (that cannot reasonably be delayed).
The Provincial Court of Alberta is hearing only urgent matters, including urgent family or child protection matters. Court documents must be filed and a judge will make a determination is leave is granted for that matter to be heard by considering the following:
- Is there a risk of immediate harm to one of the parties or children;
- Is there an imminent risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction; or
- For support orders, is there severe demonstrable financial hardship.
The Courts are continually updating their procedures and directives as this crisis unfolds. The family law lawyers at Vogel LLP are available to help you determine whether your matter is urgent or an emergency and what your legal options are at this unprecedented time.