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

Introduction

About this guide

This step-by-step guide is for people who want to apply in Supreme Court for:

  • a divorce,
  • most orders under the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act, including parenting orders, support orders, and orders about property and debt,
  • a declaration of parentage (when you ask the court to declare that someone is the parent of a child), or
  • an annulment.

This guide will help you start a family law cases in Supreme Court by filling out a Notice of Family Claim (Form F3). It gives the court details about you and your spouse, your marriage and separation, and what you're asking the court for.

For other kinds of orders, such as an adoption, you may have to apply by petition. See Rule 3-1(2) and Rule 17 of the Supreme Court Family Rules for more information.

What does the law say about parenting, support, and property?

For more information on what the law says about parenting, child or spousal support, and property, see these pages:

Fill out the Notice of Family Claim (Form F3)

You'll need:

  • Notice of Family Claim (Form F3) (PDF) (Word)
The Notice of Family Claim (Form F3) has a main section and five schedules. (Schedules are separate sections.) Each schedule relates to a different type of order. Fill out the sections that relate to the orders you're asking the court to make.

Filling out the first four pages of the Notice of Family Claim. The form has instructions to help you fill it out.

Keep in mind as you fill out your form:

  • You are the claimant.
  • Your spouse is the respondent.
  • Use your full names, including middle names.
  • If you or your spouse had a legal name change through Vital Statistics since you were married, put that new name on your form. Bring along a copy of the Vital Statistics change of name certificate when you file your documents.
  • If you or your spouse often use an unofficial alias (nickname) or a name other than the name on your marriage certificate, include the alias as well. Click the Add AKA/DBA button and enter the information in the fields provided.
    Example: If your wife's legal name is Mary Jane Doe, but everyone calls her Janey Doe, click the Add AKA/DBA button. In the fields provided, enter Janey Doe.
If you're applying for an undefended divorce, the information about what you've agreed to that you put into your Notice of Family Claim and schedules must not contradict what's in your separation agreement, if you have one.
The five schedules (divorce, children, spousal support, property, and other) are in the PDF form. They are hidden when you first open the file. To make them appear:
  • At the top of the form, click Fill In Form.
  • On page 3, under The Claimant's Claims, tick the appropriate boxes.
  • As you tick the first five options, the schedule for that option appears at the bottom of the form.

Fill out the schedules that apply to you

You'll need:

  • The schedules that relate to the orders you want
The Notice of Family Claim has five schedules (or sections). You only have to fill out the schedules that relate to the order you're asking for.

Fill out Schedule 1 if you're applying for a divorce, including if your spouse agrees to getting a divorce.

You only need to get a divorce if you've been legally married.

Grounds for divorce

You've been living separately for at least one year

Usually the grounds for divorce are that you've been living separately and apart from your spouse for at least one year.

Adultery or physical or mental cruelty

You can apply for a divorce before you have lived separately for one year, on the grounds of adultery or physical or mental cruelty. If you ask for a divorce for one of these reasons, you have to present evidence to the court to prove the facts of the adultery or physical or mental cruelty.

File proof of your marriage

If you're asking the court to grant you a divorce either now or at a later date, you need to file proof of your marriage (usually a marriage certificate) along with your Notice of Family Claim. If you don't have a copy of your marriage certificate, see Getting a copy of your marriage certificate.

If you expect your divorce to be uncontested

If you're asking for a divorce and you expect it to be uncontested (your spouse agrees with the divorce and won't file a response), you must have earlier court orders or an agreement settling all your issues. A judge won't order a divorce unless they're satisfied that reasonable arrangements have been made to support your children

Fill out Schedule 2 if you're asking the court for any order related to your children. This includes orders for child support, guardianship, parental responsibilities, parenting time, contact with a child, custody, and access. For more information, see Parenting apart and Child support.

You need to provide all the information requested. If you're asking for a divorce, the court won't make an order unless they're satisfied that reasonable arrangements have been made for the children.

Arrangements for parenting refers to who will be responsible for making decisions about the children and if and how they will spend time with each parent.

If you're applying for an undefended divorce and asking for child support, make sure you fill in:

  • the amount of support you want, and
  • an amount for your spouse's income. If you're not sure, make your best estimate.

If you don't provide this information, the court may not make an order.

Fill out Schedule 3 if you're asking the court to make an order for spousal support.

If you're married or lived together for at least two years, you must claim spousal support within two years of the divorce judgment.

If you're applying for an undefended divorce and asking for spousal support, make sure you fill in:

  • the amount of support you want, and
  • an amount for your spouse's income. If you're not sure, make your best estimate.

If you don't provide this information, the court may not make an order.

Schedule 4 is required if you're asking the court for any order to do with property and debt, like how you'll divide your property and other assets, and your debts.

For information, see Dividing property and debts after you separate and Dealing with debts after separation.

Complete Schedule 5 if you're asking for any other order, including a name change, a family law protection order, or an order declaring someone to be a child's parent.

You don’t need to ask for a legal change of name if you’re just going back to the name you used before marriage.

Complete and affirm a Financial Statement (Form F8), if required

You'll need:

If you're applying for an undefended divorce, you don't need to provide financial information when you file your Notice of Family Claim (Form F3). Skip this step and go to Step 4.

For cases other than uncontested divorces, both you and the respondent must complete a Financial Statement (Form F8) if any of the following is true:

  • Either of you is claiming an amount that is different than the amount set out in the child support guidelines tables.
  • Either of you is claiming special or extraordinary expenses.
  • The child support is for stepchildren.
  • At least one of the children either of you are claiming support for is 19 or older.
  • You have two or more children, and each parent has custody of or most of the parenting time with one or more of those children.
  • Each parent has at least 40 percent of all parenting time (or has custody of or access to the children for 40 percent of the time).
  • The person being asked to pay child support makes more than $150,000 a year.
  • Either of you is claiming undue hardship.

The respondent must complete a Financial Statement if you make a claim for child or spousal support.

Instead of filing a Financial Statement (Form F8), the person being asked pay child support can file An Agreement as to Annual Income (F9). This is a much shorter and simpler document that says both spouses agree on the amount of the payor's income for calculating child support. See Common questions about the Supreme Court PDF forms or Common questions about the Supreme Court Word forms for help using this form.

For help with the Financial Statement, see Complete a Supreme Court Financial Statement (Form F8).

Swear or affirm the Financial Statement (Form F8)

If you're required to file a Financial Statement (Form F8), you must swear or affirm that the information that appears in these documents is true. You have to do this in front of a:

  • lawyer,
  • notary public,
  • government agent, or
  • clerk at the court registry.

Bring photo identification with you.

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

File the documents in the court registry

You'll need:

  • Your completed Notice of Family Claim
  • Your completed Financial Statement, if required
  • $200 for the filing fee

Make copies of the forms

Once you've finished filling out your forms, and have the Financial Statement sworn (if required), make three copies of each document. Sort and staple them to make four stapled sets (original and three copies).

  • The registry keeps the original.
  • One copy is for you.
  • One copy is served on the other person.
  • One copy is for the process server to attach to their Affidavit of Personal Service (Form F15).

File the forms at the Supreme Court registry

Take the original and the three copies, plus the $200 filing fee, to the Supreme Court registry. You can file your documents at any Supreme Court registry. Usually, people file their documents at the Supreme Court registry nearest to where they live or work. When you go to the registry, ask any staff person to direct you to the divorce counter.

Fees can change. Call the registry to confirm these rates.

The $200 filing fee must be paid in cash or with a certified cheque or money order made out to the Minister of Finance. Many court registries will also take debit cards, but check first.
If you can't afford to pay court fees, see our guide Get an order to waive fees.

If you don't live close to a Supreme Court registry

If you're in a community that isn't close to a Supreme Court registry, contact your local library for information about where to file your documents.

If you're applying for a divorce

You need to complete another form called a Registration of Divorce Proceedings. Fill this form out online, print it out, and bring it to the registry along with your other forms. (You'll have to pay an additional $10 to file this form.)

This form is sent to a central registry in Ottawa. A divorce won't be granted until the registry in Ottawa sends a written clearance to your registry confirming that you have no other divorce proceedings pending in Canada. It can take four to six weeks for this clearance to be sent from Ottawa.

Photocopy your marriage certificate if you'd like to have a copy of it.

Serve the documents on the other person

You'll need:

  • Two copies of your filed documents
  • Someone to serve the documents on the other person

The next step is to serve the Notice of Family Claim and the Financial Statement (if required) on the other person. There are rules about the steps you have to take to make sure they get these documents. See Serve Supreme Court documents by personal service for step-by-step instructions for serving documents correctly.

What if I don't know where the other person is?

You can apply to the court to allow you to try and let the other person know about the divorce by substitutional service. You can ask that the court consider the documents served if, for example, you give the Notice of Family Claim to someone the other person knows well or you post a classified ad in a local newspaper.

To learn more, see our guide Arrange for alternative (substitutional) service.

Wait for a response

The respondent has 30 days to respond to your Notice of Family Claim (Form F3).

They do this by filing and serving on you a Response to Family Claim (Form F4). They may also file and serve a Counterclaim (Form F5) to start their own claim for child or spousal support or parenting orders. You'll get a copy of these documents.

If you've asked for child or spousal support, the respondent must also file and serve a Financial Statement (Form F8) within 30 days after being served the Notice of Family Claim (Form F3).

If the respondent lives outside the US or Canada, they have 60 days to file the Financial Statement.

What's my next step?

If you were applying for... Your next step is...
A sole divorce
An interim family order
A final family order (not including divorce)
If you receive a response and you want to... If you don't receive a response and you want to...

Make an agreement, read Making an agreement after you separate or Write your own separation agreement.

Learn more, read If the other person doesn't respond to your application for an order.
Get an interim order, go to Get an interim family order in Supreme Court if you can't agree. Get a final order, go to Do your own uncontested divorce, even if you're not asking for a divorce. The guide describes the process for getting final orders when the other person doesn't respond.

What if the court refuses to take my application?

If you're applying for an undefended divorce, the court may not make an order because no arrangements have been made for spousal support or because you haven't made proper arrangements for child support. You may have to do one of the following:

  • Amend (change) the Notice of Family Claim (Form F3) to add information about your spouse's income or the amount of support you want. Then file the amended notice at the court registry. Have it served on your spouse. Your spouse has 30 days to file a response.

  • Provide more information in your Affidavit — Desk Order Divorce (Form F38) about your spouse's income or the amount of support you want. Re-submit your application for the divorce at the registry.
Get legal advice about which is the best option for you. You may be able to explain your situation to a judge instead, but only if the judge tells you to do so.

If the judge refuses your application until a spousal support order is in place:

  1. Change the Notice of Family Claim (or Counterclaim) to add the amount. Then file the amended notice at the court registry. Have it served on your spouse. Your spouse has 30 days to file a response.
  2. Explain your situation to the judge (but only if the judge tells you to do so).

See also How Do I Change Something in My Notice of Family Claim? on the JP Boyd on Family Law website and Rule 8-1 in the Supreme Court Rules.


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