Family Law Practice Note 10, effective October 15, 2017, has the potential to drastically reduce the public’s access to Family Law Court Files. Although anyone may access the procedure card and scheduling information, the remainder of the Court File, including orders, affidavits, transcripts, etc. can only be accessed by the following persons:
- “A party to the action, lawyer of record, lawyer for the child or children of a party, a government employee acting in the course of employment in respect of the specific file”;
- A person authorized by a person noted above in paragraph 1. by means of a filed “Authority to Access Family Law File”; and
- “Members of the media, accredited by the Court from time to time”.
All other persons seeking access to a Family Law Court File must complete and serve a “Request to Access Family Law File” form (“Request”) upon all parties in the relevant action. An Affidavit of Service must also be filed with the Court. The Request must be served in accordance with Rules 11.21 (electronic method,) or 11.22 (recorded mail), of the Alberta Rules of Court.
Any party of the relevant action may then prevent access to all or part of the Court File by bringing a “Restricted Court Access Application” under Part 6, Division 4 of the Alberta Rules of Court, within 30 days of service of the Request.
How the Court will review and rule on Restricted Court Access Application in Family Law cases is yet to be seen. At the very least, Family Law Practice Note 10 will result in the following: a delay in access to Family Law files and notice to the parties whenever a member of the public or media is seeking information.