Respond to an application to open a case to change a family order in Provincial Court

Provincial Court


You've been served with an Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements

You've been served with an Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements (Form 2) because the applicant wants to change your existing court order about parenting or support.

Don't ignore the application. It can take some time to fill out the forms and gather all the documents you need. You must respond within 30 days, or an order to raise (or lower) support payments can be made without you being heard or having any input into the decision.

The process of responding to an application is complex. We suggest you read through all of this guide before you begin so that you understand:

  • the documents and forms you need to prepare,
  • the information you need to collect, and
  • the time periods you have to work with.

When will a judge change a court order?

A family lawyer who knows the facts about your case can give the best advice about whether the judge might change your order. Here are some guidelines.

While different tests apply, depending on the type of order, generally a judge won't change an order unless the applicant can prove that there's been a significant change in circumstances, and that changing the order is:

  • in the best interests of the children,
  • necessary because the amount of child support is significantly different from the child support guidelines, or
  • necessary because the amount of spousal support or entitlement to spousal support is significantly affected.

If child support is an issue, the child support guidelines makes clear how much child support the court would order. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines give an idea of the range of reasonable spousal support.

Where does this happen?

The application served on you has a court file number and shows the Provincial Court of BC registry where it was filed.

You must file any court documents at the same registry where the application was filed. If you have to appear in court, it will be in the courthouse where the application was filed. (If a court order to change the registry has been issued since your case began, you'll file your application and appear in court in the changed location.)

How long will it take?

If you file a Reply, around four weeks is a typical waiting time for a first appearance in front of a judge. This can vary by the location of the Provincial Court.

A trial or hearing date can take many months to arrange. If a trial is going to take more than one day because there are many witnesses, it's common, even in larger centres, for the trial date to be more than six months after the court appearance to set the trial date.

Get legal help

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

At any stage of the proceedings — even during a trial — you can make an agreement and have a judge make a consent order in court covering what you both agree upon.

What does the law say about parenting and support?

For more information about what the law says about child or spousal support, and parenting, see the pages below:

Fill out the forms

You'll need:

  • The applicant's Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements (Form 2)
  • Their Financial Statement (Form 4), if they filed one
  • A blank Reply (Form 3)
  • A blank Financial Statement (Form 4) (if they're applying for a change to a support order)

If you didn't receive copies of the applicant's completed forms, go to the Family Court registry where the original order was made to get the missing document(s).

You can download blank forms and instructions for filling them out from the links above. If you download forms, you can fill them out online and then print them, or print them and fill them out neatly by hand in dark-coloured ink. You can also get free printed forms from the Family Court registry in the town or city where you live.

If you need help with these forms, see Where can you get help with filling out court forms?.
You'll often be referred to as the respondent in these forms. The person applying to change the order will often be called the applicant.

Read all the documents in the application carefully so that you understand:

  • what the application is about, and
  • what the court is being asked to do.

Then complete the Reply and the Financial Statement.

Following the instructions on the form:

  • Indicate what you disagree with in the Application Respecting Existing Orders or Agreements (Form 2) and why.
  • Indicate where you don't agree with what the other person is asking for, and clearly set out what changes you want the court to make.
  • Complete the "Counterclaim (respondent's own application)" section of the form if you want to apply for an order yourself.
If the application you're responding to doesn't involve child or spousal support, you don't need to file a Financial Statement (Form 4). You can go directly to Step 3.

See our guide Complete a Provincial Court Financial Statement (Form 4) for detailed instructions for filling out this form.

Swear or affirm the Financial Statement

You'll need:

  • The completed Financial Statement (Form 4)
  • All supporting documents
  • Photo identification such as a
    • BC identity card,
    • BC Services Card,
    • driver's licence, or
    • passport.
If the application doesn't involve support, go directly to Step 3.

You must swear or affirm that what you have written in the Financial Statement (Form 4) is true.

You have to do this in front of a:

  • lawyer,
  • notary public
  • government agent, or
  • commissioner of oaths.
Some staff at the Family Court registry are commissioners of oaths and may provide this service for free.

Make copies of the documents

You'll need:

  • Your completed Reply
  • Your completed Financial Statement, if you completed one
  • All the documents that support your Financial Statement

Make four complete sets of your documents.

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

Then make the following copies:

  • A set for you (the Filing party's copy)
  • A set for the applicant (the Receiving party's copy)
  • A set for the registry (the Proof of service copy)

If either you or the other person receives income assistance, make one more set of copies for the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction.

The forms from the registry say you only need three photocopies of everything. This is because the registry forms don't include a copy for the Ministry (since they aren't required in every case).

If you download the forms, you can either fill them out online and print all the copies, or print them, complete them neatly by hand, and photocopy them. The Reply (Form 3) booklets from the Family Court registry contain all the copies you need. The Financial Statement (Form 4) contains just one copy, so you have to photocopy it.

File and have the documents served

You'll need:

  • All four (or five) copies of your documents

File your documents

Take your documents (originals and copies) to the Family Court registry where the original order was made and give them to the clerk.

The clerk will

  • keep the Court file copy and the Proof of Service copy
  • send the applicant the Receiving party's copy
  • stamp the other sets of copies and returned them to you

Have the documents served

The court rules require the registry clerk to serve a copy of your Reply (Form 3) on the applicant within 21 days of the date you file it at the registry.

If you have filled out the "Counterclaim" section of the Reply (Form 3), registry staff will give the applicant 30 days to fill out their own Reply (Form 3). You'll get a copy of this document.

If you made a copy of your documents for the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction, ask the registry staff if they'll forward your documents to the Ministry for you. (You can ask if they'll just fax a copy of the documents to the Ministry for you, but this may not be possible.)

Follow the next guide

Which guide you'll follow next depends on whether:

  • you and the other person can agree on all or some of the issues raised in the application; and
  • one of you wants an interim (temporary) order.

If you and the other person can agree on some or all issues

If the other person wants the court to make an interim order

If the above aren't options for you and the other person

You've now gone through all the steps required to respond to a family law case to change an order in Provincial Court. Thank you for using our step-by-step guide.