How Do I Find an Order or Another Court Document?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

This information is for people who have already been to court and need to find a copy of a document prepared in that court proceedingA legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called an "action," a "lawsuit" or a "case." A court proceeding for divorce, for example, is a proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order., such as a court orderA mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision" and "declaration." or an affidavitA legal document in which a person provides evidence of certain facts and events in writing, as if the evidence was given orally in court. Affidavits must be notarized by a lawyer or notary public who takes the oath or affirmation of the person making the affidavit to confirm the truth of the affidavit. Affidavits are used as evidence, just as if the deponent, the person making the affidavit, had made the statements as a witness. See "deponent" and "witness.".

There is no central registryA central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched and reviewed; a courthouse. for court records and documents. To get a copy of a court document you must go to the particular court that dealt with your proceedingIn law, the whole of the conduct of a court proceeding, from beginning to end, and the steps in between; may also be used to refer to a specific hearing or trial. See "action.", since that's the court registryA central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed. that will have your file.

Family law files are sealed from the general public, except for lawyers and the parties to the proceeding. Make sure you bring some photo ID.

If you no longer live near the court that dealt with your proceeding, it may be possible to have someone who lives there pick it up for you. That person will need, at a minimum, a letter from you authorizing them to search your court file. Check with the court registry to find out exactly what they'll need to see to before they release your file to someone other than you.

There are a few other things that are good to know:

  • the court will not let you take your file out of the courthouse,
  • the court will not let you take a document from your file, but you can get photocopies made (be warned, copying is $1 per page in the Supreme CourtNormally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court" and "Supreme Court of Canada."),
  • the court will only have files that are less than three or so years old available at hand,
  • files that are three to seven years old may be in on-site storage, and there will be a delay of a few hours before the court can get the file for you, and
  • files older than seven or so years are usually stored off-site, and there will be a delay of a few days while the file is retrieved.

You can find more information about orders and other court documents in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Thomas Wallwork, May 9, 2017.
Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.
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