Change a family order in Supreme Court if you can't both agree

Introduction

About this guide

This step-by-step guide is for people who:

  • want to change an order that was originally made in the Supreme Court of British Columbia, and
  • can't agree with the other person about how to change a parenting or support order.
If you have a family law case in Supreme Court, read about applying for mediation before continuing with this guide.

This guide includes:

  • information about and step-by-step instructions on changing a Supreme Court family order,
  • instructions about which forms to use and what to do with them,
  • blank forms with instructions for filling them out, and
  • information about what happens when you go to court, and how to represent yourself if you don't have a lawyer.

The process of applying to change an order is quite complex. Read through all of the instructions before you begin so 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. Once you're familiar with the instructions, fill out the forms you need.

If either of you lives outside of BC, you might not be able to use this guide. Please contact a lawyer for advice.

Staying out of court

If you and the other person can agree about how to change your parenting and/or child or spousal support order, you won't have to go to court or ask a judge or master to make these decisions for you.

If you can agree, you can ask the court for a consent order. For more information about agreements, see:

When can you ask for a change to a court order?

Only a fully informed lawyer can give you an accurate opinion about whether a judge might change your order, but here are some guidelines.

A judge won't change a family order just because you ask. There are specific tests in the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act, but generally, a judge won't change an order unless you 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.

For more information about when a judge will change an order, see When can you change a final order?

For more information about the issues involved in your order, see:

The child support guidelines give a pretty clear picture of how much child support you should be paying or receiving. The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines give an idea of the range of reasonable spousal support.

Consider a Judicial Case Conference

A Judicial Case Conference (JCC) is a confidential meeting with a judge or master and the other person before a court application is made. It provides a good opportunity to see if you can resolve your case without going to court or, if you do end up going to court, to understand what you need to do to prepare for the court hearing. You must attend a JCC before you can file an application for most contested orders (if you can't agree). However, a JCC is optional when you're applying to change a final order.

If you think a JCC might help, see Deal with a Judicial Case Conference. If you don't want a JCC, or you had one but didn't come to an agreement, follow this guide to get a Chambers hearing.

Where do you go?

You'll be making your application to a judge in Supreme Court Chambers. See What happens in a Supreme Court Chambers hearing? for more information about what to expect in Chambers. See Rule 10-6 of the Supreme Court Family Rules for more information on how applications such as these are made.

What if you don't succeed?

If your application isn't successful, costs might be awarded against you. This means you'll have to pay some of the other person's court costs and legal expenses, as well as your own.

Gather the documents

You'll need

  • A copy of the order being changed
  • A copy of your Affidavit(s) and a copy of the other person's Affidavit(s)
  • If a support order is being changed, any financial statements that you and the other person gave to the court when your family order was first made
You must have a copy of your current order. A copy of the Affidavit(s) isn't necessary, but it's usually helpful. It might also be helpful if you can get copies of any other (or earlier) orders, a copy of the Reasons for Judgment, if there are any, or a copy of the transcripts from your initial order court case.

These documents can help you decide what information to include in your Affidavit (you'll fill this out in Step 2). These documents also show what the facts were at the time the original order was made. Your new Affidavit should focus on showing what's changed since the order was made, and why these changes mean that the order should change.

Where to get the documents

If you don't have these documents, get them from your lawyer or from the registry of the Supreme Court where the original order was made. The location of the court registry is shown in the top right-hand corner of your order. You'll have to pay a fee for photocopying.

Call the registry of the court where the order was made to find out if they'll mail or fax copies of these documents to you, or if you must pick them up in person. You can find BC Supreme Court Registry addresses and phone numbers on the Courts of BC website (click on a location to see its address).

If you go to the court registry search desk in person to get copies, bring photo identification with you. If you have any documents related to your case, bring them with you, because they might help the clerk find your court file.

Changing orders for child support

If you're applying to change a child support order, you need to show that something that affects the support has changed since the order was first made. Usually this is the income of the payor and the amount owing under the child support guidelines.

Most court orders set out the incomes of the people involved and base the amount of child support on the guidelines. The financial statements and affidavits filed in the original court case might be helpful if your current court order isn't based on the guidelines, or in a guidelines case in which undue hardship or special or extraordinary expenses are an issue.

If you're the payor, apply to change child support amounts as soon as possible after the change in circumstances has happened or the judge might refuse to cancel the child support arrears that have added up. In the meantime, continue paying as much as you can each month.

Prepare the court documents

You'll need

Fill out the forms and complete the documents

For information about what to put into the Notice of Application, see:

For help writing the Affidavit, see:

For help filling out a Financial Statement (if you're applying to change an order for child or spousal support), see:

The forms contain technical instructions to help you fill them out. For more help using the forms, see:

You'll have to include a hearing date on the Notice of Application. Go to the court registry where you'll be filing your documents and ask them for a hearing date.

Swear or affirm the documents

After you've completed the Affidavit (Form F30) and Financial Statement (Form F8) and attached all the relevant documents, you must swear or affirm that the information that appears in these documents is true. You have to swear or affirm your documents in front of a lawyer, notary public, government agent, or clerk at the court registry.

Some people charge a lot more than others for this service. It's a good idea to shop around.

Copy, file, and serve the documents

You'll need

  • Your completed documents:
    • Notice of Application (Form F31)
    • Affidavit (Form F30) to support the application (with any attachments)
    • Financial Statement (Form 8), if required
    • Any other supporting Affidavits or documents that you intend to refer to at the hearing, but that haven't already been filed
  • $80 to file a Notice of Application
  • Someone to serve the documents on the other person

Make copies

Make three photocopies of all your documents:

  • The registry will keep the original
  • One copy is for you
  • One copy is served on the other person
  • One copy is to attach to the Affidavit of Personal Service (Form F15)

File the documents at the registry

Take all the copies of your documents, plus the filing fee, to the registry more than 21 business days before the date set for the hearing. (This means that 21 business days must pass in between the day you serve the documents and the hearing day.)

A clerk at the registry will take your money, check your documents, stamp them with the court seal, and put the originals into the file for your case. The three copies of the forms will be returned to you.

Serve the documents on the other person

Serve the documents on the respondent, including the filed Notice of Application, at least 21 business days before the date set for the hearing. (This means that 21 business days must pass in between the day you serve the documents and the hearing day.)

These documents must be served by personal service. See Serve Supreme Court documents by personal service for step-by-step instructions for how to serve these documents.

If you're applying to change support and your order was registered with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP), you need to send FMEP one of the copies of all your documents. Send the documents to the FMEP office where the order was registered. You can mail or fax them. (If you mail the documents, you'll need to make another copy.)

See the FMEP contact information page for current mailing addresses.

Wait and respond

You'll need

  • To wait up to 14 days to receive the other person's response
  • An Affidavit (Form F30) (PDF) (Word), if they raised new facts or issues in their response
The other person has 14 business days from the time they're served with your Notice of Application (Form F31) and other documents to respond to the application. They do this by filing documents at the court registry and serving them on you.

If they agree with your application

If the other person agrees with what you're asking for, you can follow the process to get a consent order, which is simpler and might not involve going to court.

If they won't oppose your application

If the other person isn't opposed to what you're asking for, but won't come to court to tell the judge and won't sign a draft consent order, you'll still go to your scheduled hearing. When you appear in court, tell the judge that your application is not opposed.

If they still don't agree with your application

If the other person opposes the application, they must file their response at the court registry, and serve you with a copy of their response within 14 business days of being served with your documents.

You only need to file a responding Affidavit if the other person has raised new facts or issues in their Affidavit that you haven't already addressed, and that you believe require a response. If you don't need to file a responding Affidavit, you can go directly to Step 5.

In your responding Affidavit (Form F30), respond only to those new issues or facts that you haven't already addressed in your earlier Affidavit to support the application. Your responding Affidavit must contain:

  • a description of who you are, and
  • your response to the new facts or issues raised in the other person's Affidavit.

You must file your responding Affidavit with the registry and serve it on the other person no later than 4 pm on the business day that's one full business day before the hearing date.

For help writing the Affidavit, see:

The Affidavit contains technical instructions to help you fill it out. For more help, see

Make an Application Record

You'll need

  • Two ring binders big enough to hold all the documents related to your case (1‑inch or 1.5‑inch are common)
  • Two sets of tabbed binder dividers numbered 1 to 15 or higher
  • Some loose-leaf paper
  • A three-hole punch
  • A Supreme Court cover page (PDF) (Word)
  • An Application Record index (PDF) (Word)
  • A sample completed Application Record index (PDF)
  • Two elastic bands big enough to go around the binders

An Application Record is a loose-leaf ring binder, divided by tabs, that contains the evidence that the judge or master will use to decide whether to change your order. It includes a table of contents (called an index), and contains photocopies of the documents you've collected, including those sent by the other person.

You need two copies of the Application Record — one for you and one for the court. The court copy will be returned to you at the end of the court hearing. You don't have to make a copy for the other person.

What goes in an Application Record

The Application Record can include draft orders, written arguments, lists of authorities (any case, textbook, article, or statute you might use to support your argument), or a draft bill of costs.

Your Application Record must not include Affidavits of Service, copies of authorities, or other documents unless the other person has agreed to let you include these.

Make a cover page

Prepare a cover page for the outside of the binder that contains:

  • the style of proceedings (names of both of you), court file number, and registry,
  • the title "APPLICATION RECORD" and a brief description of what the material is about (for example, "Application to change an order for child support"),
  • contact information for each of you or your lawyers, including addresses for service, phone and fax numbers, or email addresses that the registry can use to contact you,
  • the time, date, and place of the hearing,
  • the name of the person or lawyer who's filing the Application Record, and
  • the estimated length of time for the hearing.

Make a title page

Prepare a title page for the inside of the binder. The title page should have the style of cause, your name and the other person's name, and the name(s) of your lawyer(s), if any. The style of cause is in your previous order (all the information above the title of the document). Copy this information exactly as it appears on your order.

Add the dividers and documents

  • Number your tabbed divider pages consecutively starting at 1, if they aren't already numbered.
  • Punch holes in each page of your remaining set of photocopied documents, and put them into the binder behind the numbered tabs in the following order:
    • Behind Tab 1, insert one copy of the filed Application (Form F31).
      You must also include an extra loose copy of the Notice of Application (Form F31) with your Application Record. On that copy, highlight or mark in some way which orders you'll be referring to at the hearing.
    • Behind Tab 2, insert the Application Response (Form F32) from the other person (if you receive one).
  • Insert the remaining documents behind the subsequent tabs in the following order:
    • Your Affidavit to support the application
    • Any of your previous Affidavits that you want the court to consider
    • An Affidavit in response to the application from the other person, if you receive one
    • Your responding Affidavit, if any
    • Your most recent Financial Statement (Form F8) and any attachments
    • The other person's most recent Financial Statement and any attachments, if you received them
  • Insert any of the other person's Affidavits and Financial Statements behind tabs

Make an index

Download a blank Application Record index form and use it to create a table of contents for the Application Record. List all the documents in the Application Record in the table of contents. Insert the completed index before Tab 1 and behind the title page.

Make a second Application Record

Repeat the whole process to create a second Application Record.

File the Application Record

You'll need

  • One copy of the complete Application Record
  • One copy of the Application Record index only

Give an Application Record to the court registry

Give one copy of the full Application Record to the court registry.

The court registry has limited space for storing hearing materials, so you must file your application record:
  • after 9 am on the business day that's three full business days before your hearing, and
  • before 4 pm on the day that's one full business day before the date set for the hearing

Serve the Application Record index

If the other person responded to your Notice of Application, serve them a copy of the Application Record index. You can serve the index by ordinary service.

You must serve the index no later than 4 pm on the day that's one full business day before the date set for the hearing in your Notice of Application (Form F31). (This means that one full business day must pass in between serving the index and the hearing day.)

Appear in court

You'll need

  • Your copy of the Application Record
  • An Order Made After Application (Form F51) (PDF) (Word)

Go to court

You'll be appearing in Chambers to ask a judge to change your order. See What happens in a Supreme Court Chambers hearing? to find out more about Chambers.

Prepare the Order Made After Application (Form F51)

After you appear in court, you have to prepare an Order Made After Application (Form F51) that says what the judge decided. A lawyer representing you or the other person will usually prepare the order, even if it's not your lawyer. Ask to review and sign the order as written by the lawyer before it's given to the court registry.

The Order Made After Application contains technical instructions to help you fill it out. For more information about preparing orders, see:

File the order

You'll need

  • A copy of the completed and signed order

Make a copy of the completed and signed order and take it to the court registry where the hearing was held.

The court registry staff will review the order, then have it signed by the court, stamped, and entered or filed. Keep your copy of the draft order for your records until you get the entered order.

Entering the order can take several weeks. Ask the court registry clerk when you might be able to pick up the entered order.

Send copies of the order

You'll need

  • The approved order
  • A copy of the order for the other person
  • A copy for FMEP, if necessary

Pick up the approved order

You must either go to the court registry to pick up your order or provide a self-addressed envelope and ask the clerk to mail it to you. The entered (signed, sealed, and filed) order is your official court order. Be sure to keep a copy of the order for yourself.

Give a copy to the other person

You're responsible for mailing, giving, or emailing a copy of the entered order to the other person. Do this as soon as possible.

If support is included in the order, you might want to send a copy of the entered order to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). FMEP is a provincial government service that helps people get the maintenance payments they're entitled to.

Learn more about enforcing your support order through FMEP on the BC government website, or find out how to contact FMEP.

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