Get a new family order 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 apply for new orders in Provincial Court, and
  • you and the other person don't agree on what the order should say.

This includes orders about the following:

  • guardianship,
  • allocation of parental responsibilities,
  • parenting time,
  • contact with a child,
  • child or spousal support, and
  • procedural orders, like orders to provide information.

Know your court registry

The court has rules about which court registry you can use. Use the registry finder, below, to find out which registry you need to use.

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 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 1 – Parenting arrangements – New
  • Schedule 3 – Child support – New
  • Schedule 5 – Contact with a child – New
  • Schedule 7 – Appointing a guardian of a child or children
  • Schedule 9 – Spousal support – New

Fill out a Financial Statement, if needed

In cases involving support, the court needs financial information about one or both of you in order to make a decision. A Provincial Court financial statement tells the judge about your:

  • income,
  • expenses,
  • assets, and
  • debts.

You must complete this form in the following situations:

  • There's a claim for spousal support or child support against you.
  • You're claiming spousal support.
  • You're claiming child support and any of the following apply:
    • You're claiming an amount other than the amount set out in the child support tables.
    • You're claiming for special expenses.
    • The child support is for stepchildren.
    • At least one of the children for whom you're claiming support is 19 or over.
    • Each parent has, or is applying for, at least 40 percent of the parenting time.
    • Each parent has, or is applying to have, one child primarily in the care of one parent and another child primarily in the care of the other parent.
    • The person being asked to pay child support makes more than $150,000 a year.
    • Either of you is claiming undue hardship.
  • There's an application to set aside (cancel) or replace all or any part of an agreement that deals with child support.

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

If you're not applying for 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 (Form 4), go directly to Step 4.

If you have to file a Financial Statement (Form 4), 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 About a Family Matter (Form 3)
  • 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 of everything.

Make four 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
  • A set for the person who will serve the documents to the other person

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

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

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

The clerk gives you a blank Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter (with Counter Application) (Form 6) and a blank Financial Statement (Form 4). Attach these to one set of your documents.

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

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 files 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 1 – Reply to a Counter Application about Parenting arrangements – New
  • Schedule 3 – Reply to a Counter Application about Child support – New
  • Schedule 5 – Reply to a Counter Application about Contact with a child – New
  • Schedule 7 – Reply to a Counter Application about Appointing a guardian of a child or children
  • Schedule 9 – Reply to a Counter Application about Spousal support – New

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 or 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.

You've now gone through all the steps required to get an new family order in Provincial Court if you can't agree. Thank you for using our step-by-step guide.