Learn more about the types of family court cases and how they differ from those heard in general civil or penal court.

Criminal Cases

In criminal cases, the government enforces public codes of conduct that are codified in state laws. Criminal cases involve the prosecution of individuals who violate those laws, or for allegedly committing crimes. In criminal cases, punishment can include prison, fines, community service, and probation.


The Family Law Self-Help Center doesn’t provide forms or information for criminal cases. If you are involved in criminal proceedings, this website should not be used. Visit your local family law south surrey library to learn more about criminal cases.

Civil Cases

Civil cases are disputes between individuals or institutions, such as businesses, usually over money. These civil cases can include landlord/tenant disputes, breach of contract claims, and lawsuits for money.

Family Cases

Family cases can be considered civil cases. They usually involve issues between spouses, parents, and children. There are many domestic cases that family courts can handle. The family court handles the most common cases, including:

    • Marriage Dissolution. If someone wishes to end their marriage, they can file a family court case to request a court order. You can end a marriage by filing a case at family court to request a divorce or annulment. A court may also grant a divorce, which allows the court to issue orders regarding property, alimony, and child custody. However, the parties are still legally married.
    • Child Custody and Paternity. Either parent can ask the family court for paternity to determine if a man is the father of the child. This permanent establishes the father for the child. Parents who are not married can ask the court for legal custody, physical custody, and child support.
  • Protection Orders Against Domestic Violence. Domestic violence victims can request protection orders from the family court to keep their abuser away.
  • Name changes. An adult or a child may be able legally to change their name by filing a case with the family court.
  • Guardianship. Guardianship is the process of deciding who will take care of financial, medical, and personal decisions for a child or adult who is unable to care for themselves.
  • Termination and Adoption of Parental Rights. If a parent feels that a parent shouldn’t have a relationship with their children, such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment, the court may terminate that parent’s parental rights. The family court can terminate the rights of that parent. The family court may grant adoption to someone who wants to be a legal parent for a child.
  • Juvenile Matters. The Family Court oversees all cases involving allegations of child abuse or neglect and minors being accused of engaging in illegal behavior. These cases are handled mainly by the District attorney Juvenile Division. Minors below the age of 14 can be granted work permits by the family court.
  • Approval and Emancipation of Underage Marriages. For those under 18 years old who want to marry or are “emancipated”, (being legally free from their parents’ control), can petition the family court.