How can you become a child's guardian?

The BC Family Law Act defines guardians as the people responsible for:

  • caring for and bringing up a child, and
  • making decisions about that child.

Who can be a guardian?

When parents live together, they're both guardians of their children, even if they're not married. This means they share responsibility for their children's care and upbringing.

If the children's parents stop living together, both of them are still the children's guardians. It doesn't matter who moves out or who the children live with.

If a parent has never lived with their child, they're still a guardian if:

  • they've taken care of their children regularly,
  • there's an agreement or court order that says they're a guardian, or
  • the other parent dies and they're named as a guardian in the will.

A parent who isn't a guardian can become one if they're named as a guardian in:

  • a court order,
  • an agreement (if there's no prior court order), or
  • a will.

A person who isn't a parent can become a guardian only by court order or under a will. They can't become a child's guardian just because someone puts it into an agreement.

Once a person is named as a guardian, they'll always be a guardian unless:

  • a court order takes away their right to be a guardian, or
  • both parents agree that one of them will no longer be a guardian.

See Guardianship: Parenting time and parental responsibilities for more information about this.

Who can apply for a court order to become a guardian?

Anyone can apply to the court to become a guardian. For example:

  • parents who aren't guardians
  • grandparents
  • step-parents (step-parents don't automatically become guardians no matter how long they live with a child)
  • adult siblings (brothers or sisters)
  • other family members
  • people who aren't family members

The court is very careful about deciding who can be a guardian. It doesn't matter who the person is and what their relationship to the child is.

The Extended Family Program might be able to help you if you want to look after a relative's or friend's child for a while because:

  • the Ministry of Children and Family Development is involved with their family,
  • you don't want their children to go into foster care, and
  • you're not a guardian and you don't plan to become a guardian.

Before you apply to become a guardian, see Temporary & Permanent Care Options for Kids and Teens in BC.

How do you apply?

To apply for guardianship, you need to:

  • file an application to get a family order in either Provincial or Supreme Court, and
  • include a special affidavit in your application.

Get a family order

  1. First you need to decide whether you’ll apply to Provincial or Supreme Court.
  2. Once you've chosen a court, you need to start a family law case to get a new order. Our step-by-step guides can help you do that:
  3. Begin the process to get an order using one of these guides:

These guides are most commonly used by separating couples, but the process for getting an order to become a guardian is much the same. You'll see references to "your spouse" and "your ex" — this just refers to the other party in your case (usually the parent(s) or current guardian(s) of the child you want to be guardian of).

What do you need for the special affidavit?

In the application that you submit to the court, you'll need to include a form called the special affidavit (Form 34 if you're applying in Provincial Court and Form F101 if you're applying in Supreme Court.

In the special affidavit, you need to include information about:

  • the nature and length of your relationship with the child (that is, how you're connected to the child and how long you've known each other)
  • where the child's living right now
  • your plans for how you're going to care for the child
  • any other children in your care
  • any history of family violence in the child's family
  • any family or child protection court proceedings you've been involved in

You'll also need to get three background checks done:

  • a criminal records check
  • a Ministry of Children and Family Development records check
  • a Protection Order Registry records check

To get a criminal records check, go to your nearest police station or RCMP detachment and ask at the front desk.

To get a Ministry of Children and Family Development check and Protection Order Registry background checks:

  1. Fill out:
  2. Take the forms to the court registry where you filed your application.

It may take a while, but you can check back later to see whether the record checks have been filed. You need to do this because there are important deadlines.

Deadlines for Provincial Court

  • Your records checks must be dated within 60 days of when you filed your affidavit.

Deadlines for Supreme Court

  • Your records checks must be dated no more than 60 days before the date of your hearing.

The registry will then give you copies to attach to your affidavit so you can submit your application. Remember to attach your criminal record check as well.

Can you get a temporary order without the affidavit?

You can get an interim guardianship order if the judge believes that would be in the child’s best interests. Use our Get an interim family order in Provincial Court if you can't both agree step-by-step guide.

You can apply for an interim order if:

  • you want to get an order quickly, and
  • you don't have time to get all your background checks done first.

This order lasts for 90 days. During this time:

  • get your background checks done, and
  • fill out and file the special affidavit.

Who can help?

Family duty counsel can help you with your application. They're lawyers Legal Aid pays to help people with lower incomes with their family law matters.

They can give you free legal advice. But they can't take on your whole case or represent you at trial.

For more information, see our page Tips about getting legal help.