Tips for writing Supreme Court orders

Supreme Court

An order is a record of a judge's decision. It's filed at the court registry.

But the people involved in a case (the law calls them parties) (or their lawyers) are the ones who have to write the order. The judge or master who heard the case doesn't do it and the court clerk doesn't do it. (But in Provincial Court, court clerks write out orders for people who went to court without a lawyer.)

Here are some tips for writing (it's also called drafting) the order.

Who writes the order?

The person who wins the case usually writes the order.

If only one person involved in the case has a lawyer, sometimes that lawyer will write the order, even if they represented the person who lost the case.

Which form do you use?

You have to use the right form for your order.

You'll probably need one of these forms for your order:

  • Consent Order (Form F33): This is used when you and the other person agree about what the final or interim order should say.
  • Order Made After Application (Form F51): This is used for most types of contested orders made after a Chambers application (interim orders and changed orders). A contested order means you and the other person don't agree about what the order should say.
  • Final Order (Form F52): This is used for uncontested divorces and for orders made after a trial.
  • Order Made at Judicial Case Conference (Form F51.1): This is used when a court order is made at a Judicial Case Conference.
  • Protection Order (Form F54): This is used for an order to protect against and prevent family violence.

If you're using one of our step-by-step guides, it will:

  • tell you which form to use, and
  • give you a link to the blank form.
We link all the court forms referenced on this site on our page Find a court form. Click Supreme and sort the list by name or form number.

When do you draft the order?

When you start a family law case, you probably have a good idea of what order you want the court to make. This applies in lots of situations. For example, if you're:

  • applying for a consent order
  • applying for a desk-order divorce
  • making an application in Chambers
  • asking for orders at a trial

But you have to tell the court what orders you want.

To do this for consent orders and desk-order divorces, file a draft (a first version) order along with your other forms and documents at the court registry:

  • If the judge or master makes the order you ask for, they'll sign the draft order you filed and it becomes your court order.
  • If there's a problem with your order and the judge or master doesn't approve it, the court registry will let you know. You might have to:
    • draft another version of the order, or
    • go to court to give the judge or master more information about what you wrote in the order.

For Chambers applications, you can ask for the orders you want in either your Notice of Application or by giving the judge or master a draft court order:

  • If the judge or master agrees to the order you've asked for, you can ask them to sign your draft order or initial your application, and that order or application becomes your court order.
  • If the judge or master makes a different order than the one you asked for, you'll have to start over and rewrite the order.

What should you write in the order?

If you're writing a new order after a hearing, it has to say exactly what the judge or master said when they made the order in court.

Listen very carefully to what the judge or master says:

  • If you don't understand something, ask them to explain it.
  • If you think something's missing from the order, ask about it.

The court clerk will take notes of what the judge or master says. Ask the clerk for a copy of any notes. There's no charge for this.

If there's more than one order in your draft court order, put each one in a separate numbered paragraph (for example, an order for a divorce plus an order for child support would be in two numbered paragraphs in the court order, but there aren't any rules about which order you should put everything in).

If your court order has orders about parenting or support, write clearly whether the order was made under:

The order has to speak for itself. That means someone has to be able to look at the order and understand exactly what it means. If they have to read other documents to understand it, it doesn't speak for itself. See Write a Supreme Court order for help with this.

The BC Supreme Court website has a list of approved standard orders (called a "picklist") that you can use to help you write a family law order. The picklist is available to download from the Supreme Court Family Law Orders page.

When you open the file, you'll see a list of order terms, clustered together by topic (for example, Divorce Act, guardianship, parental responsibilities):

  1. Find the topic that applies to you.
  2. Choose the order that applies to you.
  3. Copy and paste it into your draft.

You can use the same wording and just add your name(s).

What happens after you write the order?

After you write the order, take it to the court registry and ask the staff to tell you if the format (how it's organized) is right. They won't read what it says.

Then you have to give the order to the other people who were at the hearing so they can sign it.

But:

  • if the order was made after a hearing, you don't have to get a signature from someone who:
    • wasn't at the hearing, and
    • didn't agree to it; and
  • if the judge or master signed your draft order at the hearing, you don't need to get the other person to sign it.

When everyone has signed the order, take it to the court registry. They'll check it against their notes and, if it's accurate, they'll enter it and stamp the entered order. This is your official court order that you can ask the court to enforce if necessary. Get a copy of it and make a copy for the other person. (You can ask the registry staff to make you copies but ask how much it will cost first.)

What if the other person won't sign the order?

The other person can't refuse to sign it just because they don't agree with what the judge ordered. They can only refuse to sign it if they think you haven't written exactly what the judge said.

But:

  • If you think the other person might refuse to sign the order, ask the judge or master at your hearing to "waive the requirement that the other party approve the form of the order." That means you don’t need the other person to sign it before you take it to the court registry. Or,
  • If you and the other person can't agree on the wording of the order, you can ask a court registrar to "settle the order." You can set this up by filing and serving an Appointment (Form F55). See Supreme Court Family Rule 15-1(13) to find out how to do this.
There are special rules for consent orders. If you make a consent order during or after a hearing and you or the other person doesn't have a lawyer, the person without a lawyer can consent (agree) in person at the hearing instead of signing the order.

How can you check how to spell the judge's or master's name?

If you're not sure how to spell the name of the judge or master who made your order, you can check it against the Members of the Supreme Court of British Columbia listed on the Supreme Court website.