A summary trial is a condensed form of trial that proceeds on the basis of affidavits and any other evidence allowed by the Alberta Rules of Court relating to summary trials. Generally speaking, a family law summary trial can be seen as a cost effective, shorter and alternative form of dispute resolution than a regular family law trial.
- Cost: As summary trials are condensed, the preparation and actual time in spent in court is far less than a regular trial resulting in cost savings for the client.
- Finality: It is intended to provide a final resolution of the matter or an issue
- Efficiency: It was stated in UB’s Autobody Ltd v Reid’s Welding (1981) that one day of summary trial is approximately equivalent to a week of regular trial.
- Procedural benefits: There are no mandatory dispute resolution process the parties are required to attend prior to trial nor is the consent of the other party required. However, the other party can object.
- Flexibility: The parties have control over what type of evidence will be presented and the procedural aspects of the summary trial process.
- Witness management: Summary trials usually do not require oral evidence as such witness may not have to testify in court, but rather provide evidence by affidavit.
- Repeat costs: If the matter is found not to be suitable for summary trial, the matter may be directed to an ordinary trial. Resulting in repeat litigation.
- Extra step: If the opposing party objects to a summary trial which the Alberta Rules of Court allow for, the Applicant will have to respond to the objection resulting in an extra step and subsequently more cost.
- Choice of Judge: Parties are unable to choose their judge.
- Client expectations: As outlined above in Witness management parties may not have to testify in court which may not be acceptable to an individual who wants their day in Court.
Summary trials have been available in Alberta since 1998. However, relatively few family law summary trials have been scheduled and conducted in Alberta. In fact, only 4 matters were scheduled in 2016 and only 2 of these matters were actually heard. This may be due to individuals not being aware of the processes available to them or litigators not being familiar with the family law summary trial process.