On March 15th, 2020, following Provincial Guidelines to address the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) the Alberta Provincial Courts, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, and the Alberta Court of Appeal announced a suspension of the majority of sittings, effective immediately. What this means is that certain cases cannot be brought into court, and those matters already scheduled are being adjourned.

Provincial Court

In Provincial Court, all matters are being adjourned for a minimum of ten weeks, with very few limited exceptions, those exceptions specifically being:

  • Matters with statutory limitations or deadlines
  • Family matters where there is a risk of violence or immediate harm to one of the parties or the child
  • Child Protection matters,
    • Where there is a risk of violence or immediate harm to one of the parties or the child;
    • Where there is risk of removal of a child;
    • Apprehension orders;
    • Initial custody hearings; and
    • First appearance after apprehension.
  • Mandatory reviews or show cause hearings under
    • the Child Youth and Family Protection Act;
    • Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act;
    • Protection of Sexually Exploited Children Act;
    • Mandatory Drug Testing and Disclosure Act; and
    • Health Act.
  • Warrants; and
  • Emergency Protection Orders

Any matter that does not fall within the above list will be adjourned for 10 weeks unless the matter already scheduled is a pre-trial conference, Child Protection Case Management or Judicial Dispute Resolution hearing, in which case the matters will be heard by telephone conference.

Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench

In the Court of Queen’s Bench, the court has limited hearings to those deemed as emergency or urgent matters only. Emergency matters are those 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 the expiration of an existing protection or restraining order, including:

  1. Orders where there is a risk of violence or immediate harm to one of the parties or the child
  2. Orders where there is a risk of removal of a child from the jurisdiction
  3. Emergency Protection Order Reviews

All other matters are adjourned sine die (indefinitely) or are cancelled and need to be rescheduled.

Court of Appeal

Hearings at the Court of Appeal are limited to teleconference or videoconference unless permission is obtained from the court in advance.

Reopening the courts

There is no scheduled date for when the courts will reopen although the most recent announcement stated that the current closure and prohibition on booking hearings is set to remain in place until at least May 1, 2020. The most recent announcement of the Court of Queen’s Bench has advised that an update will be provided on or before April 29, 2020.

Can I still file an application with the court?

Yes. In fact, during this time filing deadlines and processes that apply to the commencement of proceedings, including originating applications, remain unaffected by the court closures. However, pursuant to the Master Order issued by the Chief Justice of Court of Queen’s Bench, all other filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court have been suspended until May 1, 2020. The courts will make a further announcement if this changes.

However, notwithstanding the general suspension of filing deadlines on currently active matters, if you have matters with scheduled deadlines we encourage you to speak to your lawyer at Mincher Koeman where we can provide specific advice on your matter and ensure your case is not detrimentally impacted.

Do I stop working with my lawyer until the courts re-open?

No. Notwithstanding the suspension of hearings and filing deadlines, your matter is still considered a live matter and the shutdown does not prevent you from advancing your case through alternative methods of resolution or settlement. Further, given the general suspension and adjournment of all court matters, it is expected that as soon as the courts re-open for hearings, there will be a surge of applications and hearings being booked. It is a good idea to prepare as much as possible for the re-opening of the courts so as not to be delayed in the crush of matters all trying to be heard.

How can I progress my family law matter if I cannot file an application in the court?

During this time when court closures and limited hearings are in effect, people who are dealing with a separation will undoubtedly be under even more stress. At Mincher Koeman, we understand the anxiety that this can cause our clients and we have continued to assist our clients this week in mediations and arbitrations as they come to resolutions using alternate dispute procedures, that remain fully operational. We have remained connected with the family mediators and arbitrators to confirm who has the technology and the ability to offer services during this time.

During this time we have attended mediations for clients remotely via video conference. Mincher Koeman was established to offer legal services in a different way, utilizing technology to provide a more efficient and cost-effective way of providing legal advice. As a result, we have experienced no interruption in the services we have been able to offer our clients. We were easily able to move to a virtual office within hours and have been available to answer all our clients’ queries regarding parenting, child support, spousal support, offers which were pending acceptance, how dramatic changes in values of assets impacted settlement options and the quickly changing positions of our clients.

We have remained connected with third-party supports such as business valuators, psychologists and parenting coordinators who are able to provide specialized services as we continue to assist our clients during this difficult time.

How can I work with my lawyer while complying with social distancing guidelines?

At Mincher Koeman, we understand that the safety of our clients, staff and the community as a whole is the most important issue at this time. We lead the field in the use of state-of-the-art technology to assist our clients and ensure their needs are met while offering excellent cost-efficient services that can be accessed remotely, avoiding the need for in-person meetings. We have heavily invested in technology since we opened our doors, understanding that the traditional way of practicing is not always the best way. We understand that technology in the legal world is important and that now more than ever this is becoming increasingly apparent. We are prepared with paperless systems that allow us to smoothly transition to a virtual office and with first-class IT protection to ensure your data is safe. We are able to work with third-parties to conduct hearings and meetings swiftly and effectively, providing electronic documents in advance to all parties if required. We will ensure our clients’ matters continue to progress in a way that does not threaten or impact our clients’ or their families’ health.

It is anticipated that the courts will move to using video links for hearings, a move already in place in the Court of Appeal. We understand that our clients need confirmation that if their hearings are proceeding and their lawyer is self-isolating as a precaution, that their case will not be prejudiced. At Mincher Koeman, we have access to all documents relevant to our clients’ files, all necessary resources and everything we need to continue to represent our clients in the manner in which we have become known: professional, courteous, knowledgeable about the law and consummately well-prepared.

How can I retain Mincher Koeman?

We remain open for business.

Contact with our office remains seamless regardless of the actual physical location of our staff. Progress on your file and meetings can continue without delay. All issues can be addressed without ever attending our office, with the exception of signing documents as required by the Rules of Court of Alberta. We are experienced in all areas where the courts continue to hear applications. Our lawyers have extensive litigation experience in child protection matters, emergency protection orders and orders where a child is removed from a jurisdiction. Our ability to respond swiftly to this type of application remains available ensuring our clients receive first-class legal support during an already difficult time.

Mincher Koeman is a firm known for thinking outside the box and for obtaining resolution using whatever tools are available to achieve the best outcomes for our clients. Now more than ever is a time for unconventional thinking to move matters to resolution. Contact our office today by calling us at 403-910-3000 or contact us online.

A team above all. Above all a team.

Calgary Office

707 7 Ave SW #1300,
Calgary, AB T2P 3H6

Canmore Office

621 10 St #101
Canmore, AB T1W 2A2

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