Change a support order under the Divorce Act made outside BC if you can't both agree

Supreme Court

Introduction

About this guide

This step-by-step guide is for anyone who

  • lives in BC,
  • wants to apply to a BC court to change an order for child or spousal support made in a divorce proceeding in another province,
  • knows that their support order was made in Canada under the Divorce Act.

This guide doesn't apply to

  • support orders made outside of Canada,
  • support orders made in Canada but under provincial family law, or
  • parenting orders.

Was your order made under the Canadian Divorce Act?

Orders about support often say they're made under the Divorce Act. Sometimes they say they're made under provincial family law (called the Family Law Act in BC). But sometimes an order doesn't say which act it's made under.

If it isn't clear which law your support order was made under, you might need to figure this out another way. Here are some clues:

  • Was the order was made in one of the following courts? Only these courts have the power to make a Divorce Act order in Canada:
    • Supreme Court of British Columbia, Newfoundland, the Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, or the Yukon Territory
    • Court of Queen's Bench in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan
    • Superior Court of Justice (or Unified Family Court) in Ontario
    • Superior Court in Québec
    • Court of Justice in Nunavut

These courts can also make support orders under provincial or territorial laws.

  • If you were never legally married, your support order wasn't made under the Divorce Act.
  • Child support under the Divorce Act usually refers to children as "children of the marriage." Child support under provincial or territorial laws refers to children as "children."
  • If your order contains a paragraph granting the divorce, the order was made under the Divorce Act. (Older orders for divorce may refer to a decree nisi or a decree absolute.) However, support might still have been ordered under provincial or territorial law unless the order states that support is ordered under the Divorce Act.
  • If the order granting your divorce is different from the support order, compare the court file number on the divorce order with the one on the support order. If the numbers are the same, the support order was likely made under the Divorce Act.

If you still aren't sure if your support order was made under the Divorce Act, contact the court registry where your order was made or the lawyer who helped you get your divorce. You may have to look at the documents filed in the court when the action was started.

If your support order was made in Canada but not under the Divorce Act

If your order wasn't made under the Divorce Act, you can't apply to have the BC Supreme Court change the order. You'll have to either:

  • apply under the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act,
  • go back to the court that made the order, or
  • apply to a BC Provincial Court and ask the other person to accept the jurisdiction of the BC court to change the order.

See Interjurisdictional orders: When a case involves more than one province, territory, or country and the Interjurisdictional Support Orders website (Attorney General ministry).

If your support order was made under the Canadian Divorce Act

Use this guide to start your own case in BC Supreme Court. The BC Provincial Court can't change Divorce Act orders.

You must apply in Supreme Court even if the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program has started enforcement proceedings on the order you want changed.

Where to get more 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:

You can also get help from Justice Access Centres in Vancouver, Nanaimo, and Victoria.

Complete the first form

You'll need:

Fill out the Petition

This is an electronic form. The form has some instructions to help you fill it out. For more help, see

The registry will provide the court file number when you file the Petition later. Leave that blank for now.

Fill in the location of the court registry where you'll file the Petition.

Fill in your name and address as the Petitioner and your former spouse’s name and address as the Respondent.

Leave the space below ON NOTICE TO blank.

Check the box beside "the person(s) named as petitioner(s) in the style of proceedings above."

Provide the address of the court registry, your address for service, and your lawyer’s name and address, if you have one.

Fill in your details in the four parts that follow:

Part 1: Order(s) Sought

"The petitioner applies for an order that the Order of [name of judge] made on [date of order] in the [name of court] of [Province] be provisionally varied so that the [child/spousal] support be [increased/decreased] to [amount] and/or the arrears of [child/spousal] support be reduced or cancelled."

Part 2: Factual Basis

"The facts upon which this petition is based are as follows:" and briefly summarize the facts relevant to your application. Provide objective facts that give the person reading them a short history of your case: say what orders have been made and what changes have happened that make it necessary to change the support order. Don't make personal comments about your former spouse.

Part 3: Legal Basis

"The petitioner will rely on Sections 17, 18, and 19 of the Divorce Act."

Part 4: Material To Be Relied On

List the Financial Statement (Form F8) and any affidavits you are filing with the petition. See Step 2.

Time estimate

Give an estimate, in minutes, of how long it will take to hear the petition.

Attach the support order

Sign and date the Petition.

Attach to your Petition a copy of the support order you want to have changed. It’s best if this copy is certified to be a true copy by the court that made the order, but the registry may accept an uncertified copy.

Using a blank Supreme Court cover page, make a cover page for the documents that contains:

  • the style of proceedings (your name and the other person's name), court file number, and registry;
  • the title PETITION and a brief description of what the material is about (for example, "Rule 17-1(2) Petition to change a support order made outside BC");
  • contact information for both 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 is filing the petition; and
  • the time estimated for the hearing.

Complete other court documents

You'll need:

Fill out the forms

These are electronic forms. The forms contain some instructions to help you fill them out. For more help, see

Swear or affirm the forms

After you've completed the Affidavit (Form F30) and the Financial Statement (Form F8) (if required), you must swear or affirm that the information that appears in these documents is true. Any exhibits to your Affidavit must also be stamped and sworn.

You have to do this in front of a:

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

Bring picture identification with you.

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

File the documents

You'll need:

  • Your completed and sworn documents
    • Petition to the Court (Form F73)
    • Financial Statement (Form F8)
    • Affidavit (Form F30)
    • Notice of Hearing (Form F75)
  • $200 to file the Petition

When you go to file your documents, ask the court registry staff which days you can present your matter to a judge or master. In Vancouver, the court hears family matters on any business day (Monday to Friday). Other registries may have particular days for family matters or may only be open on certain days. On the Notice of Hearing (Form F75), fill out the date you get from the registry.

Because you’re asking for a provisional order under the Divorce Act, you don’t have to serve documents on your former spouse before having your matter heard in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. This means the court may have your hearing on the same day that you file the documents.

The registry charges a $200 fee for filing the Petition and other documents. If you can’t pay the fee, you can apply to the Supreme Court for an order to waive fees. Do that first, before you file your Petition to the Court.

Appear in court

Go to the courtroom at the courthouse on the day you were told to appear.

Because you haven’t served your former spouse, they won’t be present or represented at the hearing. A judge or master will hear your side of the story and make a provisional variation order based on the facts you’ve presented. The order won’t have any legal effect or be enforceable until it's confirmed (made final) by the superior court in the province or territory where your former spouse currently lives (BC or elsewhere).

The judge or master may expect you to have served your former spouse, so be prepared to refer them to section 18(2) of the Divorce Act. Tell the judge or master that you’re asking for a provisional variation order. Note that they may still require you to serve your former spouse before proceeding.

Write a draft order

You'll need:

  • Order Made After Application (Form F51) (PDF) (Word)

You need to write a draft provisional variation order based on what the judge or master said when they made the order.

Use the Order Made After Application (Form F51). Make it clear on the form that it’s a provisional variation order that has no legal effect (and isn’t enforceable) until confirmed by a judge.

This is an electronic form. The form has some instructions to help you fill it out. For more help, see

File the draft order

You'll need:

  • The draft provisional variation order

File the draft provisional variation order at the court registry.

The registry staff will ask you to complete a Statement of the Applicant form, with information about your former spouse. They need this information to help them serve the documents on your former spouse.

In Victoria, Nanaimo, or Vancouver, you can ask staff at the Justice Access Centre for help. In other locations, you can ask family duty counsel.

Wait for the confirming order

After you file the draft order, the process goes as follows:

The registry staff will:

  • order a transcript (written record) of what you told the judge or master and the reasons they gave for making the provisional order;
  • send all the documents you filed at court, the transcript, the draft order, and the Statement of the Applicant form to the Attorney General’s office in British Columbia; and
  • send the documents to the Attorney General’s office in the province where the original support order was made.

From there, the documents will go to the superior court in the province your former spouse lives in, and the documents will be served on them.

Your former spouse will have an opportunity to present evidence to a judge in that province. The judge will then make a final (confirming) order.

The order and the court’s reasons will be sent to the Attorney General’s office in the original province, the Attorney General’s office in British Columbia, and finally to the court registry that made the provisional order.

This process can take a few months to complete. In some cases, it can take a year or more. You can contact the BC court registry now and then to request an update on progress.