Change a final order or set aside an agreement in Provincial Court if you can’t agree

Provincial Court

Introduction

Court operations during COVID-19

Because of COVID-19, many conferences, hearings, and proceedings are being held by phone or videoconference at this time. For more information, see:

This step-by-step guide is for you if:

  • you want to change a final family order made in Provincial Court, or
  • you want to set aside or replace all or part of an agreement you have about a family matter, and
  • you and the other person don't agree on what the order should say.
You must use the same court registry where the order was made or the agreement was filed.
 

If neither of you lives near the original registry, you may need to apply to change the registry. Talk to duty counsel.

Know your court registry

Some family court registries offer extra free services to help people resolve their family law issues without going to court. Depending on your registry, you may have to use those services before you can file an application with the court.

When to use this guide

You can use this guide if:

  • your court registry doesn’t require you to use any conflict resolution services, or
  • you’ve used your registry’s resolution services and some of the issues are still not settled.

Get legal help

It's a good idea to get some legal help before you use this guide. If you can't afford a lawyer, you can get legal help in other ways, including:

Staff at Justice Access Centres in Nanaimo, Surrey, Vancouver, and Victoria can also answer your questions and help you fill out forms.

For information about legal aid, see the Legal Aid BC website.

Fill out the court forms

You'll need:

 
To get Provincial Court forms, you can:
  • download PDF forms from the links above and fill them out on your computer,
  • print the PDF forms and fill them out in pen, or 
  • ask for printed forms at your local Family Court registry.
If you need help with these forms, see Where can you get help with filling out court forms?.

Fill out the Application About a Family Law Matter and the applicable schedules

This form includes all the instructions you need to help you fill it out correctly. Be sure to fill out the schedules that apply to your situation, too.

  • Schedule 2 – Parenting order/agreement – Existing
  • Schedule 4 – Child support order or written agreement – Existing
  • Schedule 6 – Contact order or written agreement – Existing
  • Schedule 7 -  Appointing a Guardian of a Child
  • Schedule 8 – Cancelling guardianship of a child or children
  • Schedule 10 – Spousal support – Existing

You must have a copy of your current order or agreement.

Fill out a Financial Statement, if needed

If you're applying to change a support order, you may have to file a Financial Statement with your application. See Complete a Provincial Court Financial Statement (Form 4) for step-by-step instructions.

If you're not asking for any changes to support, you don't need to complete this form. Go to Step 3.

Swear the Financial Statement

You'll need:

  • your completed Financial Statement (Form 4) and all attachments
  • photo identification such as a
    • BC identity card,
    • driver’s licence, or
    • passport.
If you're not applying to change a support order or you aren't required to file a Financial Statement, go directly to Step 3.

If you have to file a Financial Statement, you must swear that the information in it and any supporting documents is true.

Take your documents to the courthouse. Registry staff will check your documents to be sure you’ve completed them correctly.

A person at the registry can swear the financial statement and then file it for you. There is no fee for swearing or filing your documents.

You can use a lawyer or notary to swear your documents if you prefer. They will charge for this service.
You can’t change the financial statement after it’s sworn. So it’s a good idea to have the registry staff review your completed financial statement before you sign it and have it sworn.

Make copies of the documents

You'll need:

  • your completed Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements (Form 2)
  • your completed Financial Statement (Form 4), if required
  • all the documents that relate to your completed forms
If you fill out the forms online, you can print all the copies you need. If you download the forms and fill them out by hand, you'll have to make photocopies. The Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements (Form 2) booklet from the Family Court registry contains all the copies you need. The Financial Statement (Form 4) booklet includes just one copy, so you'll have to photocopy the pages.

Keep all the original forms and attachments as one set. This will be the set that you give to the court (the Court file copy).

Make the following sets of photocopies:

  • A set for you (the Applicant's copy)
  • A set for the person who will be responding to your application (the Respondent's copy)
  • A set for the person who will serve the application (the Proof of service copy)

You may also need these other sets of copies:

  • A set for the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, if the original support order was filed with this program
  • A set for the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction, if you're on income assistance
The forms from the registry will say you only need three photocopies of everything. This is because the registry forms don't include copies for the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program or the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction (since these aren't required in every case).

File the documents

Court registry services during COVID-19

Provincial Court registries are open and accepting filings in person. The court still prefers that you file documents by email, mail, fax (to fax filing registries), or by using Court Services Online where available.

You'll need:

  • all the sets of copies of your documents

Take all the copies of your documents to the Family Court registry and give them to the clerk.

Give the documents to the registry clerk. The clerk will keep one set of documents for the court file copy, and will stamp the other copies and return them to you. Provincial (Family) Court doesn't charge any fees for filing documents.

    If your application doesn't involve support, skip to Step 5.

    If you're applying to change the amount of support in an order that was originally filed with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program(FMEP), send the FMEP one copy of your completed documents and attachments.

    • Mail or fax the documents to the FMEP office where the original support order was filed.
    • You can also ask registry staff to send a copy of your documents to the FMEP when you file your papers at the registry.

    Give the documents to the other person

    You'll need:

    There are strict rules about how to give court documents to the other person. You can’t serve your Application About a Family Law Matter yourself. You must arrange for another adult to deliver them to the other person. This is called personal service. You can hire a process server to do this or you can ask a friend or family member to serve the documents for you.

    Attach the blank Reply to Application About a Family Matter (Form 6) and Financial Statement (Form 4) to one set of the stamped documents.

    Attach the blank Certificate of Service (Form 7) to the other copy of the stamped documents.

    Give both sets of documents to the person who will serve the documents. This person must do the following:

    • Give one set of documents to the other person.
    • Fill out the Certificate of Service (Form 7), sign it, and return it and the other set of documents to you.

    See Serve Provincial Court documents by ordinary or personal service for information about how to serve a document and complete the Certificate of Service.

    If you can't arrange for personal service, you must get a court order for alternative service (sometimes called substituted service). See Arrange for alternative service or get help from a lawyer, such as family duty counsel, to do this.

    Wait for the Reply and Counter Application

    You'll need:

    • to give the other person 30 days to file their Reply

    After being served with the documents, the other person has 30 days to file a Reply and a Counter Application (Form 6).

    If the other person files documents, the court registry will send the documents to you, along with instructions for how to book a Family Management Conference.

    Check at the court registry after 30 days to find out if the Reply has arrived. The registry may not send the Reply to you for up to three weeks after it's filed.

    Read the Reply carefully to understand:

    • what parts of your application the other person agrees to and what parts they don't agree with, and
    • if they asked the court to make orders by filling out the Counter Application.

    If they don’t agree with what you asked for, book a Family Management Conference and go to Step 8.

    If they filed a Counter Application to ask for different orders, go to Step 7.

    If the other person filed a Reply and they agree with what you asked for, you can stop using this guide and get orders by consent instead. See Get a family order in Provincial Court if you agree.

    If the other person doesn't file a reply, see If the other person doesn't respond to your application for an order.

    File a Reply to the Counter Application

    You’ll need:

    Fill out the Form 8 and schedules

    If you agree with any part the other person’s Counter Application, tick the boxes in Section 2, Agreement with orders.

    If you don’t agree with parts of the other person’s Counter Application, tick the boxes in Section 3, Disagreement with orders.

    If the Counter Application includes child or spousal support, fill out a Financial Statement (Form 4), if you didn’t do this as part of your own application.

    See Complete a Provincial Court Financial Statement (Form 4) for help with the Financial Statement.

    Fill out only the schedules that apply to the Counter Application:

    • Schedule 2 – Reply to a Counter Application about Parenting arrangements – Existing
    • Schedule 4 – Reply to a Counter Application about Child support – Existing
    • Schedule 6 – Reply to a Counter Application about Contact with a child – Existing
    • Schedule 7 – Reply to a Counter Application about Appointing a guardian of child or children
    • Schedule 8 – Reply to a Counter Application about Cancelling guardianship of child or children
    • Schedule 10 – Reply to a Counter Application about Spousal support – Existing

    Make copies

    Make three sets of the documents you've prepared:

    • The original forms (with any attachments) for the court
    • A set for you
    • A set for the other person

    File the documents

    Take all the copies of your documents to at the same Provincial Court Registry where you filed your original Application About a Family Law Matter.

    The registry clerk keeps one set of the documents for the court file copy. They stamp the other copies and return them to you.

    If the registry clerk won't accept your documents, find out why and get legal help.

    There’s no fee for filing in Provincial (Family) Court.

    Serve the Reply to a Counter application on the other person

    Serve (give) the other person one copy of your filed documents by ordinary service. This means sending them to the address for service the other person gave on their documents.

    You can serve them in any of the following ways:

    • by leaving the documents at their address for service
    • by mailing the documents by ordinary mail to their address for service
    • by mailing the documents by registered mail to their address for service
    • by emailing the documents, if their address for service includes an email address,
    • by faxing the documents, if their address for service includes a fax number,

    See Serve Provincial Court documents by ordinary or personal service for more information about serving documents by ordinary service.

    Fill out a Certificate of Service (Form 7) and attach it to your own copy of your documents. You’ll need this if the court asks for proof that you served the documents on the other person.

    Prepare for and attend the Family Management Conference

    Your Family Management Conference is your first step with the court. Your application and the other person’s counter application (if they filed one) will both be before the court.

    To be prepared for your Family Management Conference (FMC), you need:

    • to know what happens at an FMC
    • all your documents or notes about what you want, or even a draft order.

    For more information, see Family Management Conferences in Provincial Court. Your hearing won’t be as formal as a full trial.

    If you resolve your issues at the FMC, the judge will make an order and adjourn your case.

    Your lawyer or the other person’s lawyer will write up the order. If neither of you has a lawyer, the court will write up the order and send it to you both.

    The order is effective as soon as the judge makes it, unless they specify a different date.

    If you need more orders or to change your orders after your case is adjourned, you can file a form and come back  to court. You can have another FMC, a Family Settlement Conference, a hearing, or a trial. (See Final and interim orders for more information.)

    If your case is in Kelowna Provincial Court, see our Child Support page for important information
    If you receive a child or spousal support order, you can register it with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). FMEP is a provincial government service that helps people get the support (maintenance) payments the judge orders.

    For information about how to contact the FMEP, see the FMEP website.

    If some or none of your issues are resolved the judge will send you both to one of the following:

    • another Family Management Conference
    • a Family Settlement Conference
    • a hearing
    • a trial (cases hardly ever go straight to a trial)

    What happens at a family settlement conference?

    A Family Settlement Conference (FSC) is a private, informal one-hour meeting between:

    • you,
    • the other person involved in your case (the law calls them the other party),
    • a Provincial Court judge, and
    • your lawyers, if either of you has one.

    At a Family Settlement Conference, the judge will help you try to sort out some or all of your issues. It's a good chance for you both to try to settle the issues affecting your children.

    The judge might make suggestions about things you can do to sort out your issues, but you don't have to do what they suggest.

    If you don't agree with what the judge is suggesting and think a different judge might make a different order, you can:

    • refuse to do what the judge at the FSC suggests, and
    • go to trial, where the judge might make an order that works better for you.

    See Trials in Provincial Court for more information about hearings and trials.