The B.C. Supreme Court Family Rules state that documents filed in B.C. cases may only be accessed by a party to the case, an individual authorized by a party or a lawyer whether or not that lawyer is representing a party.

 

B.C. Supreme Court Family Rule 22-8:

 

Search of files

 

(1)Unless the court otherwise orders,

(a) no person, other than the following, may search a registry file in respect of a family law case:

(i) a lawyer, whether or not a lawyer of a party;

(ii) a party;

(iii) a person authorized in writing by a party;

(iv) a person authorized in writing by a party’s lawyer, and

(b) no person, other than the following, may search a registry file in respect of a proceeding under the Child, Family and Community Service Act :

(i) a party’s lawyer;

(ii) a party;

(iii) a person authorized in writing by a party;

(iv) a person authorized in writing by a party’s lawyer.

 

Electronic court docket information available

(2)Despite any other power the registrar may have to compile and retain information, the registrar may compile and retain an index, in electronic format or otherwise, that contains the following information respecting proceedings referred to in subrule (1):

(a) the parties as identified in the style of proceeding;

(b) the case file number as set out in the style of proceeding;

(c) the category or type of the proceeding;

(d) the date the proceeding was started.

 

Access to information

(3)Unless the court otherwise orders, any person may, in respect of a proceeding referred to in subrule(1), have access to the information retained in the registry under subrule (2) about that proceeding.

 

Limitation

(4)Nothing in this rule requires the registrar to provide access to information in any form or format other than the form and format in which that information is available in the registry at the time that the request for access is made.

 

Search of exhibits

(5)The exhibits produced at the trial or hearing of a proceeding referred to in subrule (1) must be sealed by the registrar in a secure manner and, unless the court otherwise orders, no person other than a party’s lawyer, a party or a person authorized by a party or by a party’s lawyer may search the exhibits.

 

Search of agreements

(6)Unless the court otherwise orders, no person other than a party, a party’s lawyer, a person authorized in writing by a party or a person authorized in writing by a party’s lawyer may search a separation agreement filed under section 122 of the Family Relations Act .

 

 

 

This right to privacy is a limited right and can be circumvented by an interested third party retaining a lawyer to access the court file.

 

The right to privacy is offset by the right of the public to an open court process. It is therefore important for clients to take this under consideration before proceeding to court.

 

Deborah A. Todd
Deborah A. Todd