Surrey and Victoria Family Court

Provincial Court

Anyone who wants to resolve a family dispute in Surrey or Victoria Provincial (Family) Court is able to use different procedures than in the rest of BC. In both of these courthouses, the first step in the process is to resolve family issues by agreement, rather than letting a judge decide in a courtroom. Resolving issues by agreement through cooperation is generally easier on the parties both emotionally and financially. 

This new “early resolution” court process is to help people resolve these issues:

  • guardianship
  • parenting time
  • parenting responsibilities
  • child support and/or spousal support, or
  • contact with a child.

If you need a decision from the court quickly you may be able to go directly to a hearing in front of a judge. This is for protection orders (when your or your child’s safety is at risk), priority parenting matters, preventing a relocation of children, enforcement of court orders and filed agreements, and consent orders. Once your urgent issues are dealt with, the rest of your issues can be resolved through the early resolution process.

Note that child protection cases, trials, trial preparation conferences, family case conferences, and Family Maintenance Enforcement Act matters in Surrey and Victoria remain the same as in the rest of BC. As well, these new procedures don’t apply to divorce or other proceedings in the Supreme Court of BC.

If you have filed an application for an order, an application about an existing order or agreement, or a Notice of Motion in the Surrey or Victoria court registries before December 7, 2020, you’ll continue under the previous court process.

For Surrey and Victoria court procedures, see the following pages:

You begin the early resolution process for your family law case by filling out a form called Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter (Form A).

All the court forms are available as fillable PDF forms. Each form has an online workbook with instructions for how to fill out the form and next steps. You can also get a paper copy of the form and workbook from the Justice Access Centre (JAC) or the Surrey or Victoria court registries.

After completing this form, file it at your local court registry and give a copy to the other person (in person, by mail, text message, email, etc.).

The Provincial Court registries are now open for in-person filing of documents, although the court still prefers alternate methods of filing if possible. Send your documents by email or mail to your local court registry, by fax to a fax filing registry, or by using Court Services Online where available. Note that you may just type your signature (or use an electronic signature) on any court application form.

The Justice Access Centre (JAC) will then contact you to arrange a needs assessment with a family justice counsellor (to be done by phone). During the needs assessment, you’ll:

  • discuss your family’s legal and non-legal issues,
  • get legal information about next steps,
  • get referrals to legal advice,
  • get referrals to community services that might be helpful to you and your family, and
  • find out if mediation (consensual dispute resolution) is okay for you and the other person.

You may be asked to take a short education course called Parenting After Separation or Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families if you have children under 19 years of age and you haven’t already done so.

The person you gave the copy of the Notice to Resolve a Family Law Matter form should contact the JAC. If not, the JAC will try to contact them to begin the first early resolution steps. Then, if possible and appropriate, you'll both participate in at least one mediation session or some other type of consensual dispute resolution. You can use the free services at the JAC for mediation or to negotiate support, hire a private mediator, or work with lawyers in a collaborative law process. The goal is to help you both find a solution to your issue and avoid having to go to court. You may need to provide financial information before this meeting using a Financial Statement (Form D).

If you resolve your issues, you’ll get help to file an agreement, or apply for a consent order, or write up a Memorandum of Understanding document and be referred to further legal advice.

If you don’t resolve all your issues, you’ll both begin the steps needed to go to a family management conference with a judge. The family justice counsellor will help you get ready for this (for example, by checking that you have both shared financial information). At this conference, you’ll again try to resolve your issues without actually going to court. See Family Management Conference below.

If you don’t resolve all your issues with mediation (or some other form of consensual dispute resolution), you move to the next step in the court process called a family management conference. The conference is an informal meeting with a judge to discuss and possibly resolve your issues, or at least prepare for further steps if your matter is going to court.

Because of COVID-19, these conferences are currently taking place by telephone or on Microsoft Teams. See Provincial Court virtual proceedings.

Apply for the court order

You must first apply to court for a court order about your matter. (This can be for a new order, an order to change or cancel all or part of an existing final order, or an order to set aside or replace all or part of a written agreement.) To do this, you complete and file an Application about a Family Law Matter (Form C). You may also need a copy of an existing order or written agreement, or a Financial Statement (Form D), depending on the type of order.

Orders about guardianship require extra documents including a record check from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, a child protection order record check from the protection order registry, and a criminal record check. The records must be filed within 60 days of the date the records were created. If there's a hearing to determine guardianship, you must file and serve the affidavit at least seven days before the hearing. If you're applying for guardianship without a hearing, you must swear the affidavit within seven days of the hearing.

You then serve by personal service on the other person:

  • the Application about a Family Law Matter
  • a registry form about how to respond
  • any additional documents

See Serve Provincial Court documents by personal service for more information. However, note that you don't need to get the sworn Affidavit of Service.

Before the other person can reply, they must have gone through all the steps of the early resolution process. They must reply (using the Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter – Form F) within 30 days. If the application involves support, they’ll also need to do a Financial Statement – Form D.

If the other person includes a counter application about another matter in their reply, you may file and serve a reply using Reply to a Counter Application (Form G) within 30 days.

If the other person doesn’t reply, you must file a Certificate of Service (Form E) that was completed by the person who served the documents.

The registry will contact you (and the other person if they’ve replied) about how to schedule a family management conference. The conference can go ahead even if the other person doesn’t reply or show up.

The conference

At the conference, the judge will try to help you resolve your issues. You may give evidence verbally on oath or affirmation, or by affidavit. The judge can make different types of court orders including:

  • consent (final) orders (if you and the other person agree) or interim (temporary) orders about parenting arrangements, contact with a child, support, or guardianship
  • conduct orders to manage interaction between you and the other person, or directing you to take (or not take) certain actions
  • case management orders to help you prepare for trial if necessary (see Case Management Orders section below)

A judge can also refer you back to mediation or some other form of dispute resolution, or tell you to attend another conference, a family settlement conference, a trial preparation conference, a court hearing, or trial.

Some family matters are time-sensitive and don’t require early resolution assessment or mediation (or other consensual dispute resolution). At any time that you need quick access to a judge, you can apply immediately to the court for urgent orders about the following issues.

  • Protection orders
  • Priority parenting matters
  • Relocation
  • Enforcement

If you have another type of case that is urgent or time-sensitive other than those listed above, you can ask to be excused from the early resolution process. See Case Management Orders: Orders without notice below.

Even though you don’t have to follow all usual early resolution steps for urgent matters, you can get help with your court application and also get referrals to other resources from the Justice Access Centre.

Note that the court forms used for these issues in Surrey and Victoria are different than those used in the rest of BC.

Protection orders

You don’t have to meet the early resolution requirements if you’re applying for both a protection order and an order about a family law matter. Protection orders are for when you've experienced family violence, or you think there's a risk of family violence. You can apply to get, change, or end a protection order with or without notice (without letting the other person know).

You can get help preparing and filing the Application about a Protection Order (Form K) and any supporting evidence or documents. (You can give evidence at the hearing with a sworn affidavit or by speaking on oath or affirmation.)

If you're applying for a protection order without notice, you must include a statement of the reasons why you’re applying without notice with your application. You'll likely be able to have a hearing with a judge on the same day. Note that a judge may decide that the other person should be given notice.

If you’re giving notice, you must arrange personal service of your application and other documents on the other person at least seven days before the date of the court appearance. The person you ask to serve the application must complete a Certificate of Service (Form E) and give it to you.

See Serve Provincial Court documents by personal service for more information. However, note that your server doesn't need to do a sworn Affidavit of Service.

If the judge, makes or changes the order, generally the court clerk will prepare the order, give you a copy, give a copy to or arrange service on the person the order was made against if necessary, and send a copy to the Protection Order Registry.

Priority parenting matters

You don’t have to meet the early resolution requirements if you’re applying for both an order about a priority parenting matter and an order about a family law matter. You have an urgent “priority parenting matter” when you and the other guardian don’t agree about a time-sensitive matter such as:

  • a guardian giving or refusing consent to medical, dental, or other health-related treatment for a child, if a delay would risk the health of the child;
  • a guardian applying for a passport, licence, permit, benefit, or other thing for the child, if a delay would risk the child’s safety or well-being;
  • a change or planned change of where the child lives that would affect the child’s relationship with the other guardian;
  • the removal of a child from a specific geographical area or the wrongful removal from where the child has lived for a long time with someone other than a parent;
  • an interjurisdictional issue about the care of or time with a child; or
  • the return of a child alleged to have been wrongfully removed or retained under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

Applying for orders about priority parenting matters – with notice

To apply to a judge to get, change, or end, an order about a priority parenting matter, you must file an Application about Priority Parenting Matter (Form M), and any supporting evidence or documents. Then you must let the other person know, by serving them with the application and supporting documents at least seven days before the date set for the court appearance. (It can be less if the court has given you permission for “short notice.”)

Depending on the address for service in the court file for the person you’re serving, you can leave the documents at their address, mail the documents by ordinary mail, or email or fax the documents. If there is no address for service, you must serve the documents by arranging for an adult who is not involved in the case to leave the documents with the person to be served, unless otherwise ordered.

You can give evidence at the hearing with a sworn affidavit or by speaking on oath or affirmation.

Applying for orders about priority parenting matters – without notice

You may apply for an order about a priority parenting matter without notice (without letting the other person know) by filing an Application for Case Management Order Without Notice or Appearance (Form I). You can give evidence at the hearing with a sworn affidavit or by speaking on oath or affirmation.

You will likely be able to have a hearing with a judge on the same day. Note that a judge may decide that the other person should be given notice.

Relocation

You can apply for an order to stop the relocation of a child if there is already a written agreement or order about parenting arrangements or contact. You must complete Application for Order Prohibiting the Relocation of Child (Form O).

After you file your application at the registry, you must serve on the other person (at least seven days before the date referred to in the application for the court appearance):

  • a copy of Form O,
  • a copy of your existing order or agreement, and
  • the notice of relocation.

Enforcement

There are a number of reasons when you may need to ask the court for an order about enforcement. For example:

  • to enforce a written agreement or order about:
    • denial of parenting time or contact;
    • failure to exercise parenting time or contact;
    • conduct;
    • extraordinary remedies;
  • to enforce or change a decision of a parenting coordinator;
  • to establish expenses one person paid out due to behaviour of the other person; or
  • to decide if payments are owing under a support order or agreement.

Complete and file Application for Enforcement (Form P) to apply for any order about enforcement. You must also file a copy of the agreement, the determination, or the order that you want enforced. You must serve the other person at least seven days before the court appearance.

You can apply directly to the court for non-urgent matters without having to attend a court hearing, when:

  • you and the other person agree about your family matter and you want a consent order;
  • you want to ask a judge to help move your court case along or to address some specific concern; or
  • you want to ask for a hearing, schedule a conference, or ask to have your case start up again.
Note that the court forms used for these orders are different in Surrey and Victoria than those used in the rest of BC.

Consent orders

You can ask for a consent order (when you both agree about your family matter) at any time, without a court appearance. The order the court makes will be based on what you and the other party have agreed to. You can also ask for a consent order whenever you're both talking to a judge, by giving evidence as necessary.

Applying for consent orders

Generally, you can apply for a consent order by filing:

The judge may approve your order, or ask for more information, ask to speak to you, or ask you to review and sign any changes. If the judge rejects your application, they’ll tell you why.

Applying for consent orders about case management

Case management orders help move a court case along or to deal with some specific concern. See Case management orders below for a list of these types of orders.

To apply for a consent order about a case management order without appearing before a judge, you must file:

On Form H, check the box that says you’re submitting a draft consent order.

If you want to speak to the judge about your application, you just file the Application for Case Management Order (Form H).

On Form H, check the box that says “a court appearance is requested.”

(Note that you don't have to serve either Form H or the draft consent order.)

The judge may approve your order, or ask for more information, ask to speak to you (if you aren’t there), or ask you to review and sign any changes. If the judge rejects your application, they’ll tell you why.

Case management orders

Case management orders are orders that you can ask a judge to make to help move your court case along or to address some specific concern. You can either ask for a court appearance (with notice) to make your request, or request an order without notice or appearance. You can also ask for these orders as a consent order. See Consent Orders above.

Case management orders include:

  • transferring the court file to another registry,
  • adding or removing a party to the case,
  • settling or correcting the terms of an order,
  • setting a time period for filing and exchanging of information,
  • correcting or changing a filed document,
  • ordering a parentage test,
  • requiring that information be disclosed by a third party,
  • adjourning a court appearance;
  • requiring that a person who prepared a report under section 211 attend a trial;
  • issues concerning the conduct of a person or the management of a case;
  • appointing a lawyer;
  • allowing a person to attend a hearing or conference using electronic communication such as phone or video;
  • dismissing or changing any requirement, related to service, delivery, or giving notice;
  • dismissing or changing any other requirement, including shortening or extending a time limit;
  • requiring access to information;
  • recognizing an extra-provincial order other than a support order;
  • managing of a court record, file or document, including access to a court file; or
  • cancelling a subpoena.

Orders with notice

You may apply for any case management order by filing and then serving an Application for Case Management Order (Form H) and any supporting evidence or documents. You must do this at least seven days before the date set for the court appearance.

Orders without notice

You can apply for some case management orders without notice, or without attending court.

Use the Application for Case Management Order Without Notice or Appearance (Form I) for:

  • allowing a person to attend a hearing or conference using electronic communication such as phone or video;
  • dismissing or changing any requirement, related to service, delivery, or giving notice;
  • dismissing or changing any other requirement, including shortening or extending a time limit;
  • requiring access to information;
  • recognizing an extra-provincial order other than a support order;
  • managing of a court record, file or document, including access to a court file; or
  • cancelling a subpoena.

Note: If the judge grants the order without notice, you must serve it on the other person.

Requesting a conference or hearing

If any of the following apply, you may ask that a court conference or hearing be scheduled by completing and filing a Request for Scheduling (Form R):

  • your matter was adjourned without setting a new date;
  • your matter was struck from the court list;
  • one person was referred to a program, professional or resource, or required to attend, participate or complete a requirement (or to deal with something missing), by the court;
  • a review of the terms of the order was included in an order;
  • you’re applying to change, suspend or cancel an interim order;
  • you’re applying for an interim order after attending a family management conference.

You must serve the form on the other person at least seven days before the date referred to in the application for the court appearance.

If your court file started before the Early Resolution Process

If one year has passed after you filed an application about your family law matter and nothing has happened in your court file, you must:

  1. complete and file a Notice of Intention to Proceed (Form B),
  2. serve it on the other person,
  3. file a Certificate of Service, and
  4. participate in a family management conference. See Family Management Conferences above.

Application About a Family Law Matter (Form C)

If you’ve been served with an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form C), you may respond to it. If you don’t, the matter will go ahead and the judge may make court orders without your involvement, or may order you to attend a conference or court appearance.

Before you respond, you must go through the early resolution steps. See Early Resolution Process above. Then you must file a Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form F) within 30 days. You can:

  • agree with one or more of the orders in the application;
  • disagree with one or more of the orders in the application;
  • make a counter application to apply for an order about a different family law matter not in the application.

If your counter application involves an existing agreement or order, child support, spousal support or appointment of a guardian, you must file any additional documents needed.

If the application about the family law matter involves child support or spousal support, you must file a Financial Statement (Form D).

Any other orders

If you’ve been served with an application for any of the orders in the list below and choose to respond, you

  • must attend court on the date and time referred to in the application for the court appearance, and
  • may also file a Written Response to Application (Form Q).

If you want to do the written response form, you must file and then serve the written response on the other person before the date referred to in the application for the court appearance.

Application for Case Management Order (Form H)
Application About a Protection Order (Form K)
Application About Priority Parenting Matter (Form M)
Application for Order Prohibiting the Relocation of a Child (Form O)
Application About Enforcement (Form P)

For general information about the Early Resolution and Case Management Model, see the BC government website.

All Provincial court family forms are also available on the BC government website.

Trying for early resolution

Dez explains the early resolution process in our short illustrated story, Trying for early resolution.

Illustration to introduce story
A conference rehearsal

Shaney learns how important it is to prepare for a family management conference, in our short illustrated story, A conference rehearsal.

Illustration to introduce story