Family law: British Columbia divorce files publicly accessible

On behalf of Peterson Stark Scott posted in Family Law on October 16, 2018.

Marriage and divorce are federally mandated in Canada, but most other family law issues fall under widely varying provincial laws. Divorce records in British Columbia and others in provinces and territories — with the exception of Quebec — aren’t sealed and so every personal detail can be publicly scrutinized.

That means if court records contain such things as information about affairs, naked photos, evidence of abuse — all this private information isn’t so private after all. These files can be teeming with information to which neither individual would want anyone to have access, but there is no way to stop someone from obtaining it once it’s in a divorce file. In addition to all that, there could also be information relating to a marital home, bank accounts and debts owed. These files could read like a salacious novel.

Either spouse, however, can ask the court to keep the file private, but a judge will usually only do so when he or she believes the administration of justice may be at risk. In cases where children’s welfare could be at stake, a judge will seal some of the information in files, but usually not all. The privacy issue is one of the main reasons divorcing couples try to come to agreements through mediation or arbitration.

There are family law rules in British Columbia of which many people may be unaware. A lawyer can provide the answers to legal questions that might be perplexing such as the issue of privacy. A lawyer may also be able to act as a mediator for his or her divorcing clients.

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