Start a family law case to get a new order in Provincial Court

Introduction

This step-by-step guide is for people who want to apply for new orders about parenting or support.

If you can agree on some issues but not on others, you can apply for orders related only to those issues that you don't agree about. For example, you may agree on how to share parenting time, but not on how much spousal or child support should be paid.

If your case is in Victoria, you will follow different procedures. See Family matters at the Victoria Courthouse.

Get legal help

It's a good idea to get some legal help before you begin a guide. If you can't afford a lawyer, there are other ways to get legal help, including:

What does the law say about parenting and support?

For more information about what the law says about child or spousal support, and parenting (including guardianship, parenting arrangements, contact with a child, custody, and access), see our fact sheets:

Fill out the Application to Obtain an Order (Form 1)

You'll need:

Fill out an Application to Obtain an Order (Form 1) if you're applying for:

  • guardianship,
  • allocation of parenting responsibilities,
  • parenting time,
  • contact with a child,
  • child or spousal support, and
  • procedural orders, like orders to disclose information.
You can download blank forms and instructions for filling them out from the links above. You can also get free printed forms from the Family Court registry in the town or city where you live.

If you use the online forms, you can fill them out online and print them, or print them and fill them out neatly by hand, using dark-coloured ink.

If you download the forms, you'll have to make several copies of everything. If you use forms from the registry, the copies you need are already included in some of the forms booklets.

Fill out a Financial Statement (Form 4), if necessary

You'll need:

In cases involving support, the court needs financial information about one or both of you in order to make a decision.

A Provincial Court Financial Statement (Form 4) tells the judge about your:

  • income,
  • expenses,
  • assets, and
  • debts.

You must complete this form in the following situations:

  • There's a claim for spousal support or child support against you.
  • You're claiming spousal support.
  • You're claiming child support and any of the following apply:
    • You're claiming an amount other than the amount set out in the child support tables.
    • You're claiming for special expenses.
    • The child support is for stepchildren.
    • At least one of the children for whom you're claiming support is 19 or over.
    • Each parent has, or is applying for, at least 40 percent of the parenting time.
    • Each parent has, or is applying to have, one child primarily in the care of one parent and another child primarily in the care of the other parent.
    • The person being asked to pay child support makes more than $150,000 a year.
    • Either spouse is claiming undue hardship.
  • There's an application to set aside (cancel) or replace all or any part of an agreement that deals with child support.

See Complete a Provincial Court Financial Statement (Form 4) for help with the Financial Statement.

Swear or affirm the Financial Statement (Form 4)

You'll need:

  • your completed Financial Statement (Form 4) and all attachments
  • photo identification
  • money to pay any fee
If you're not applying to change a support order or you aren't required to file a Financial Statement (Form 4), go directly to Step 4.

If you have to file a Financial Statement (Form 4), you must swear or affirm that the information in the Financial Statement (Form 4) and any supporting documents is true.

You have to do this in front of a:

  • lawyer,
  • notary public,
  • government agent, or
  • commissioner of oaths.

Bring photo ID with you, such as a:

  • BC identity card,
  • driver’s licence, or
  • passport.
Some staff at the Family Court registry are commissioners of oaths and may provide this service for free. It's a good idea to call ahead and shop around.

Make copies of the documents

You'll need:

  • your completed Application to Obtain an Order (Form 1)
  • your completed Financial Statement (Form 4), if required, and any related documents

Make four sets of the documents you've prepared

  • The original forms (with any attachments) for the court (the Court file copy).
  • A set for you (the Applicant's copy)
  • A set for the other person (the Respondent's copy)
  • A set for the person who will serve the application (the Proof of service copy)
If you fill out the forms online, you can print all the copies as you need. If you download the forms and fill them out by hand, you'll have to make photocopies. The Application to Obtain an Order (Form 1) booklet from the Family Court registry contains all the copies you need. The Financial Statement (Form 4) booklet includes just one copy, so you'll have to photocopy the pages.

File the documents

You'll need:

  • All the sets of copies of your documents

File your documents at the Family Court registry located at the courthouse.

You might find it convenient to file it at the registry closest to where the children normally live, or if there are no children, where you live.

There's no fee for filing applications in Provincial (Family) Court.
  • Take all four sets of your completed documents to the registry and give them to the clerk.
  • The registry clerk will keep one set of the documents for the court file copy. They will stamp the other copies and return them to you.
  • The clerk will give you a blank Reply (Form 3) and a blank Financial Statement (Form 4). Attach these to the Respondent's copy of your documents.
If the registry clerk won't accept your documents, find out why and get legal help.

Give the documents to the other party

You'll need:

  • the stamped Respondent's copy of your complete set of documents
  • a blank Reply (Form 3)
  • a blank Financial Statement (Form 4), if needed
  • a person 19 or older to give the documents to the other person
  • the Proof of Service copy of your complete set of documents
  • an Affidavit of Personal Service (Form 5)

There are strict rules about how to give court documents to the other person. For an application for a family order, you must arrange for personal service of the documents by a third person. The documents must be given to the Respondent by a person who is 19 years or older. You can't serve the documents yourself. You can hire a process server to do this or you can ask a friend to serve the documents for you.

Attach the blank Reply (Form 3) and Financial Statement (Form 4) to the Respondent's copy of the filed documents.

Give the person who will serve the documents:

  • The Respondent's copy, to give to the other person, and
  • The Proof of service copy, to attach to the Affidavit of Personal Service (Form 5) (on page 5 of the Application to Obtain an Order [Form 1]).

See Serve Provincial Court documents for information about how to serve a document and complete the Affidavit of Personal Service.

Wait for the Reply (Form 3) and Counterclaim

You'll need:

  • to give the other person 30 days to file their Reply

After being served with the documents, the other person has 30 days to file a Reply (Form 3) and Counterclaim (the other person's own application). The court registry will send these documents to you. The other person doesn't have to serve them on you.

Check at the court registry after 30 days to find out if the Reply has arrived. The registry may not send the Reply to you for up to three weeks after it's filed.

If the other person doesn't respond to your application, see If the other person doesn't respond to your application for an order.

Choose your next guide

You'll need:

  • your copy of your Application
  • the other person's completed Reply

Read the Reply carefully to understand:

  • what parts of your application the other person agrees to and what parts they don't agree with, and
  • if they asked the court to make orders by filling out the Counterclaim portion of the Reply form.

You may find that you both agree about some issues and only a few issues are still in dispute. Choose your next guide below.

If you can both agree on some or all issues and you both want

You and the other person can't agree and you want