Family law protection orders
You can apply for a family law protection order in family court (Provincial or Supreme Court) when there's a risk of family violence.
You can apply for protection from a "family member," which means:
- someone you are or were married to,
- someone you live or lived with in a marriage-like relationship for any length of time,
- your child's parent or legal guardian,
- a relative of any of the people above who lives with them,
- a relative of yours who lives with you, and
- your own child.
The protection order can be to protect you or any other family member who's at risk of family violence.
"Family violence" is violence by a family member that includes:
- abusing you or a family member physically, sexually, emotionally, or psychologically;
- following or stalking you;
- damaging your property; and/or
- exposing your child to family violence.
A protection order can tell the person named in the order:
- not to contact you, your children, or other family members who may be at risk of abuse;
- to stay away from your home, your work, school, or other places where you, your children, or other family members spend time;
- not to follow you, your children, or other family members;
- not to have a weapon; and/or
- that the police can go with you to your home while you get your personal belongings, or make the person named in the order leave the family home.
You can get community support and legal advice before you apply for a protection order. Workers can help you assess risk and make a safety plan. You can get legal advice about whether a protection order is the best choice for you. See Who can help.
Usually you apply for a protection order for free in BC Provincial Court. You can also apply in Supreme Court, but the fee there is $80 if you've started a case, but $200 if you haven't started one. You can apply to have the fee waived if you would find it hard to pay.
You can apply for a protection order on its own, or at the same time as you apply for other family court orders. The protection order can only be about safety. Other kinds of orders need to be in a separate order.
If you're before the judge for another reason and they decide you need a protection order, the judge can make the order even if you didn't apply ahead of time.
You don't have to give notice when you apply if it might increase the risk to your safety.
If the protection order is made, the court will arrange to have someone serve a copy of the order on the person.
They can then go to court and ask that the order be cancelled or changed. If they can show that there's no risk of family violence, the order will be set aside.
Once you have your protection order, keep a copy with you at all times. You can show it to the police if your partner doesn't follow one of the conditions, or for another reason.
It's also important to have proof that the order was served on your partner. When you fill out the form asking for the court to arrange for service of the order (a Request for Service of Family Protection Order), make sure you fill out the top part that asks for notice of successful service. You can also ask the court registry for a certified copy of the Affidavit of Service. Keep the notice or Affidavit of Service you receive with your order.
A protection order ends after one year unless the judge puts another date in the order. A protection order made in BC usually applies only in BC (not the rest of Canada).
Your protection order must be obeyed before all other orders. For example, you may have a parenting order that is different from the protection order. The protection order must be obeyed first, and the parenting order goes on hold until the protection order ends.
If the person breaches the protection order (by either of you contacting each other), the police can arrest and charge them with a criminal offence. The protection order explains the arrest powers of the police.
When you get a protection order, it's registered with the Protection Order Registry, a confidential computer database. This way, the police can get up-to-date information about the order 24 hours a day. You can make sure your order is registered in the database by calling VictimLink BC (no charge) at 1-800-563-0808, any time.
If you want to contact the person named in the order, you must apply to court to change or cancel the protection order.
Before you make changes to the protection order, talk with a victim service worker or lawyer. You'll want to understand how the changes may affect your and/or your children's safety.
In BC, the central Protection Order Registry has records of protection orders made by BC courts. Once your protection order is registered, the police can quickly find out about the conditions in your protection order if you have to call them. To make sure your order is registered and correct, call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 (no charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week).
If you apply for a family law protection order, it's best to have a family law lawyer help you go to court and advise you about other options for protection. You can hire a lawyer or talk to Legal Aid to find out if you can get a free lawyer.
Call Legal Aid
Greater Vancouver: 604-408-2172
Elsewhere in BC: 1-866-577-2525 (call no charge)
Or find the phone number of the legal aid office nearest you on the Legal Aid website.
Contact a free legal advice clinic
If you can't afford a lawyer, and don't qualify for legal aid, you can call a free (pro bono) legal advice clinic.
Hire a lawyer
If you want to hire a lawyer but don't have your own, you can call the Lawyer Referral Service. They'll give you the name and number of a lawyer in your community. You can have a 30-minute consultation with this lawyer for $25 plus taxes.
Greater Vancouver: 604-687-3221
Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-663-1919 (call no charge)
For more information, see the booklet For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders, and the Live Safe, End Abuse fact sheets. See also the self-help guide How to apply for a family law protection order.
See MyLawBC for help with making a safety plan for yourself and your children.
See WorkSafe BC for resources about personal safety in the workplace.
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