What Is Civil Litigation?

In our legal system, there are only two courts: the criminal court, and the civil court. Most people have a pretty good idea what criminal court is. The police charge a citizen with a crime; the accused person hires a defence lawyer; the crown attorney prosecutes; the judge (or judge and jury) decides if the accused person is guilty, or not, followed by sentencing, or dismissal of the charge. In a nutshell, criminal law involves the state against the person. The result is either a criminal sanction – sentence, (or not).

Everything else that ends up in court, goes to civil court, which, also in a nutshell, involves a person bringing a claim against another person, (or organization), or vice versa.The result is either monetary damages (or not) or an order for specific performance of some sort (or not). Usually the successful party gets an order for legal costs against the other party. (You lost, so you should pay for my lawyer to be here, in addition to your own!). That gets expensive. All of these disputes are collectively known as “civil litigation” and in the vast majority of cases, involve claims for money.

Family Court has evolved from the civil court system to have its own set of rules and forms, but it is still technically under the general umbrella of civil court, given that the nature of the dispute involved is between individuals. Its other major distinguishing point is the jurisdiction it holds to make orders relating to children, including custody, child protection and adoption.