Respond if you've been served with Form 3

Provincial Court

Introduction

If you're served with an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 3), read it very carefully to see what the other party wants. Read all the attachments (called schedules), too.

The other party might want to:

  • get a new order,
  • change or cancel all or part of a final order you already have, or
  • set aside or replace all or part of an agreement you already have.

Don't ignore this application. You must file a Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 6) within 30 days, and it can take some time to fill out the forms and gather all the documents you need.

If you don't respond in time:

  • the court registry might not send you any details about court dates or other important information, and
  • the other party can go to court without you.

Before you start to respond to an application:

  • read the application very carefully again, then
  • read through all of this guide so that you understand:
    • the information you need to collect,
    • the documents and forms you need to prepare,
    • the time periods you have to work with, and
    • what you can expect in court.

This will make the process easier.

Where do you file your Form 6?

You must file any court documents at the same courthouse registry where the application (Form 3) was filed. If you have to appear in court, you'll go to the courthouse where the application was filed.

You'll find the name of your registry in the top right-hand corner of the Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 3).

Provincial (Family) Court registries offer extra free services to help people resolve their family law issues without going to court. You must use the services your registry offers before you can file an application with the court. Use the registry finder below to find out which services the registry you're using offers.

How long will it take?

The registry will contact you about three weeks after you file your Form 6. They'll explain how to book a family management conference (FMC). You'll likely have to wait for about three weeks for your family management conference but it could be longer.

The judge will likely send you to a family settlement conference next.

But they might decide at the FMC that you need a trial or hearing. If that happens, you might have to wait for six months to a year to get a trial date.

See Family management conferences in Provincial Court to find out more about family management conferences and how to prepare for them.
Even if you have a trial, you and the other party can make an agreement at any time. The judge will make a consent order about what you’ve agreed.

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.

Wellness

Court forms seem daunting, but it's just a matter of filling in certain facts. Take them one question at a time.

Fill out the forms

You'll need:

You only need to file a Financial Statement if support is an issue.

Read the other person's documents again before you begin so that you're very clear about:

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

If you need help with these forms, see Where can you get help with filling out court forms?

In Form 3, the person who will be filling in the response is called the other party in the form.

In Form 6, the person who filled in Form 3 is called the other party.

Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter (with Counter Application) (Form 6)

The first few sections on the form ask for things like your name and date of birth and your children’s names and dates of birth.

In Section 6, write down any information about you and your family that might help a judge make certain decisions. Write as much detail you can in this section, because:

  • the judge will use the information to make orders, and
  • it might be very hard to get the orders changed later.

In Section 10, tick all the parts of the application (Form 3) you agree with.

In Section 11, tick all the parts of the application you don’t agree with. Depending on what you don’t agree with, you’ll have to fill out some other forms (called schedules). Write down as much detail as you can in the appropriate schedule to explain why you don't agree with certain parts. Be as clear as you can.

Section 12 explains how to make a counter application (your own application) if you want to apply for an order yourself. If you decide to make a counter application, check the box on the first page of the form where it says "with counter application."

Financial Statement (Form 4)

If child or spousal support isn’t an issue, you don't need to file a Financial Statement (Form 4). You can go directly to Step 3.

Wellness

Paperwork can be tedious and tiring. Take breaks, drink water, and remember you don't have to do it all at once.

Swear the Financial Statement (Form 4)

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, skip this step and go directly to Step 3.

See Complete a Provincial Court Financial Statement (Form 4) for detailed instructions for filling out your financial statement.

Take the completed Form 4 and any supporting documents to a clerk at the court registry to swear or affirm that the information in the documents is true. This is a free service. You can also have a lawyer or notary public swear the affidavit but they'll likely charge a fee. See Who can swear an affidavit? for more on this.

If it's not possible to get to the registry, you can skip this step. The judge will likely get you to swear your Financial Statement at the hearing.

Make copies of the documents

You'll need:

  • your completed Reply (Form 6)
  • your completed Financial Statement (Form 4), if you completed one
  • all the documents that support your Financial Statement
If you fill out the forms online, you can print as many copies as you need. If you download them and fill them out by hand, you'll have to make photocopies. You can also get free printed forms from any Family Court registry.

If you didn't get your Form 4 sworn, make copies of it after you've signed it anyway.

Make two copies of all your documents. Remember to copy any attachments. Organize the originals and copies into three complete sets of documents.

You'll:

  • give the original set and one set of copies to the court, and
  • keep one set for yourself.
If either you or the other person receives income assistance, make one more set of copies for the Ministry of Social Development & Poverty Reduction.

File the documents and have them served

You'll need:

  • all three copies of your documents

File your documents

Take your documents (originals and copies) to the Family Court registry where the Application was filed and give them to the clerk.

The clerk will:

  • stamp and keep the original set of documents and one set of copies, and
  • stamp the other set of copies and give them to you.

The clerk will also file the original set of documents for you and send one set of copies to the other person.

Have the documents served

The registry clerk serves a copy of your Reply on the other person within 21 days of the date that you file it at the registry.

If you've filed a Counter Application with your Reply, the other person will have 30 days to file a Reply to Counter application (Form 8). The registry will send you a copy of this document within 21 days of the other person filing it.

If you don't file a reply

If you don't file a Reply (Form 6), the other person can ask the judge to make a final order. The judge might:

  • ask the person to serve you again if the judge believes you weren't served properly,
  • set a hearing date, either with or without ordering that you'll be given notice, or
  • make the orders the other person asked for.

As soon as you realize you've missed the filing date or you know something is happening in court, call the court house to get more information on upcoming court dates and file your reply.

You can still file a Reply after a court date has been scheduled.

Prepare for and attend the family management conference

See Family management conferences in Provincial Court for tips on how to prepare for a family management conference.

If you don't attend the family management conference, the judge can make orders without hearing what you have to say.

Going to a family management conference isn't like going to trial but you're still in court and the person conducting the conference is a judge.

To make the most of your time at a family management conference, be prepared. Bring:

  • a list of what you want and why,
  • a list of what you disagree with and why, and
  • any documents that help you show your points.

What happens if the discussion breaks down?

Sometimes, no meaningful discussions happen at the family management conference because one of you is unable or unwilling to discuss the issues or to compromise. The judge can make orders even if you don't agree with them.

If you and the other person have different opinions about things like how many hours each person works or a child's health issues, the judge will likely want to hear both sides of the story another day when there is more time. If this happens, they'll likely order:

  • another family management conference,
  • a family settlement conference,
  • a hearing, or
  • a trial.
Wellness

Being prepared ensures that your side of the story is heard and considered. You can do this.

The judge will tell you what to do next

The judge might tell you to attend another family management conference, a family settlement conference, or a trial preparation conference.

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 you have any.

At an FSC, the judge will help you try to sort out some or all of your issues. It's a good chance for you and your spouse 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.

What happens at a trial preparation conference?

At a trial preparation conference:

  • Your matter will usually be on a list with many other matters in court. You'll probably only be in front of a judge for 5 to 15 minutes.
  • The judge might make orders about things such as:
    • exchanging witness lists
    • exchanging summaries of what each witness will say
    • exchanging other documents either of you plan to use at trial

What happens if you're not ready for trial?

If you don’t have all the documents or witnesses you need, the judge will likely adjourn (delay) the trial date to give you time to prepare.

Get the order

If you have a child support case in Kelowna Provincial Court, see our Child support page for important information.

At the end of the trial, the judge either:

  • gives a decision right away, or
  • says that they will decide at a later date.

If the judge decides right away

If the other person has a lawyer, their lawyer will write the order.  If neither of you has a lawyer, the registry clerk will write it.

The order is effective as soon as the judge makes it.

If the judge doesn't make their decision that day

If the judge says they will decide later:

  • the clerk will give you a date to come back to court and hear the decision, or
  • the registry will contact you later to give you a date to come and hear the decision.

Sometimes the judge makes a written decision and it's mailed to the parties. Usually the judge will state at the end what orders are being made. Read the statements carefully so you understand what the judge has decided. If you have any trouble understanding the judge's decision, ask duty counsel or call a law help line for help.

Wellness

People react with different emotions. Whatever you feel now is okay.

Notify the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program, if you want

If the order involves support and the original support order was registered with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), and support has now been changed, send a photocopy of the new order to the FMEP.

If the original support order was not registered with the FMEP, you may wish to register your new support order with the program now.

For more information, see Family Maintenance Enforcement Program on the Family Justice (Attorney General ministry) website or contact FMEP.