Respond to an application to change a family order in Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Introduction

You've been served with a Notice of Application (Form F31)

The applicant has served you with this form because they're asking the Supreme Court to change a final family order, and they think you won't agree with the change. This includes any parenting orders (for guardianship, parenting time, contact, custody, or access) or orders for child or spousal support (including cancelling or reducing arrears).

You must respond to this application within 14 business days. If you don't respond, the applicant can continue with the application and will appear at the court hearing without you. The judge can make orders in your absence.

Will the judge change the order?

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

A judge won't change an order just because the applicant asked for it. The applicant needs to prove to the judge 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.

If the application is successful (if the other person succeeds in changing the order), costs might be awarded against you. This means that you'll have to pay some of their court costs and legal expenses as well as your own.

What if you agree with the changes?

If you can agree on a new order, you can ask the court for a consent order. This will save you time and money.

If there's been a significant change in circumstances, there might be a strong reason to change the current order. For example, if you're paying child support and your income has gone up, a judge is likely to order the new amount from the child support guidelines tables.

For more information about coming to an agreement before you ask for a consent order, see:

What do you do next?

Applications to change a Supreme Court final order are made to a judge in Supreme Court Chambers. For more information about what to expect in Chambers, see What happens in a Supreme Court Chambers hearing?

The process for changing an order is quite complex. Read through all of these instructions before you begin so that you understand the information you need to gather, the documents and forms you need to prepare, the time periods you have to work with, and what you can expect in Chambers.

How do you find a lawyer or get legal aid?

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:

For information about legal aid, see the Legal Aid BC website.

Review the application

You'll need

  • The applicant's completed documents:
    • The Notice of Application (Form F31)
    • The Affidavit (Form F30)
    • The Financial Statement (Form F8)
The date and time for the hearing will be written on the Notice of Application. Put this on your calendar. You won't get any further notice of the hearing date.

Read the Notice of Application, Affidavit, and Financial Statement carefully to understand what the applicant's asking for.

If you agree with the changes

If you're willing to agree to the other person's requests without going to court, let the other person know that they can tell the judge that the application is not opposed. Generally, the judge will make the order the other person's asking for.

Or you can choose to follow other procedures that are outlined in Change a family order in Supreme Court if you both agree.

If you don't agree with the changes

You must respond to the application within 14 business days from the time you're served with these documents. (If you receive the documents after 4 pm, calculate the 14 days from the next business day.) If you don't respond, the other person can continue with the application and will appear at the court hearing without you. The judge can make orders in your absence.

Consider arranging a Judicial Case Conference

If the applicant doesn't arrange a Judicial Case Conference (JCC) before making their court application, you might want to consider arranging one. A JCC is optional when you're applying to change an order, but having one can save you time and money. The JCC gives you and the other person the opportunity to sit down with the judge and either resolve your case without going to court, or help you to prepare for the court hearing. For more information on JCCs, see Judicial Case Conferences in Supreme Court.

Even if you'd like to have a JCC before the hearing, you still need to respond to the application in time or ask the applicant to postpone the hearing until after the JCC.

Gather the documents about your current order

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

These documents can help you decide what information to include in your Affidavit (see Step 3).

You must have a copy of your current order. A copy of the Affidavit(s) isn't essential, but it's usually helpful. It might also be helpful if you can get a copy of the Reasons for Judgment, if there are any, or a copy of the transcripts from your initial order court case.

Changing orders for child support

The applicant (in this case, the other person) needs to show that something relevant to support has changed since the order was 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.

The child support guidelines changed in May 2006 and in December 2011, and the Federal Child Support Tables were updated in 2017 to reflect more recent tax rules. These changes might be enough to justify an application to change child support.

Where do you 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.

Prepare the court documents

You'll need

  • An Application Response (Form F32) (PDF) (Word)
  • An Affidavit (Form F30) (PDF) (Word)
  • Every other document you'll be referring to at the hearing and that hasn't already been filed
  • A Financial Statement (Form F8) and related documents, if required

If you oppose the application

You'll have 14 business days to file your response documents at the court registry and have them served on the other person.

For help writing the Affidavit, see:

For help filling out a Financial Statement (if the other person's 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:

If you don't oppose the application

If you don't oppose the application and you're willing to agree to the other person's requests without going to court, tell them that they can tell the judge that the application is not opposed. Generally, the judge will make the order the other person's asking for.

Or you can choose to follow the procedures to get a consent order.

Swear or affirm the documents

You'll need

  • Your Affidavit (Form F30)
  • Your 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.

Copy, file, and serve your response documents

You'll need

  • Your Application Response (Form F32)
  • Every Affidavit (Form F30) and every document you intend to refer to in court, if it hasn't already been filed at the registry as part of this case
  • Your Financial Statement (Form F8), if needed
  • $25 to file an Application Response
  • The other person's address for service
  • An Affidavit of Ordinary Service (Form F16) (PDF) (Word)

Make copies

Make four copies of all your completed documents and any exhibits or attachments:

  • The registry keeps the original
  • One copy is for you
  • Two copies are served on the other person
  • One copy is to attach to the Affidavit of Ordinary Service (Form F16)

File the forms at the Supreme Court registry

Take the original and three copies, plus the filing fees, to the Supreme Court registry.

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 four copies of the forms will be returned to you.

Give the documents to the other person

You need to serve two copies of the Application Response, Affidavits and any exhibits that haven't already been served, and financial statement (if you completed one) on the other person within 14 business days of being served with the Notice of Application (Form F31).

You can serve these documents by ordinary service. This means you can:

  • leave the documents at the other person's address for service (the address they put on their court documents, such as their Notice of Application),
  • mail the documents by regular post to the other person's address for service, or
  • email or fax the documents, if the other person provided an email address or fax number as part of their address for service.

For more information on serving documents and help with filling out an Affidavit of Ordinary Service (Form F16), see Serve Supreme Court documents. If the other person doesn't attend the hearing, the Affidavit of Ordinary Service will prove to the judge that you served the documents.

Receive and review further documents

You'll need

  • Any new affidavits from the applicant
  • The Application Record Index

More affidavits

After the other person receives your documents, they might send you one or more additional affidavits. These documents must be served on you before 4 pm on the business day that's one full business day before the date set for the hearing. Any new affidavits should contain only new information not included in the earlier affidavits served with the Notice of Application (Form F31).

Application Record Index

The other person must provide the court with a binder of all the material for the hearing, including your Response and your affidavits. This is called the Application Record. The other person must provide you with the index to the Application Record, which lists the documents included in the binder, no later than 4 pm on the business day that's one full business day before the hearing.

If any documents are missing from the index

Review the index carefully to make sure all the documents you want to show to the judge are included in the Application Record. If something's missing from the index, tell the other person immediately, by fax or email if possible, and ask them to include the missing documents. (Make a copy of this letter for the judge.) Bring two extra copies of any missing documents to the hearing so that you can give one each to the judge and the other person, if necessary. Bring along the Affidavit(s) of Ordinary Service to prove that the documents were delivered to the other person and should have been in the Application Record.

You can make your own Application Record, to help you organize the information and evidence that you need in court. See Step 7.

Prepare an Application Record

You'll need

  • All the documents you received from the applicant
  • All the documents you filed in your response
  • The Application Record Index
  • A ring binder large enough to hold all the documents
  • Divider tabs

If you want, you can make your own copy of the Application Record. An Application Record is a loose-leaf ring binder, divided by tabs, that contains your information and evidence and includes a table of contents, called an index. The Application Record will help you to organize the information and evidence that you need in court, making it easier for you to follow the court proceedings because you, the judge, and the other person will all have the same materials, in the same order.

The other person is responsible for providing the Application Record to the court and for sending you a copy of the index so that you can see what's in the Application Record.

If you want your own copy of the Application Record, you have to make one. Refer to the index of the Application Record that the other person sent you.

Insert all your documents, and those you received from the other person, in the order they appear in the index. You can use the Application Record index that the other person sent you for your binder. If materials are missing from the index the other person gave you, add them to the end of the index you're working with.

The Application Record can also 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. The Application Record must not include Affidavits of Service, copies of authorities, or other documents unless the other person has agreed to you including these.

Prepare and appear in court

Getting ready for your court appearance

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

If the date on the Notice of Application won't work for some reason (for example, if you aren't ready), you must still go to court and stand up and ask for an adjournment (a delay). If you really can't go to court on that day, ask someone to go in your place to ask for an adjournment. This person will need an Affidavit from you, or at least a signed letter from you explaining your circumstances. You'll have to give a good reason for asking for an adjournment. If you don't show up and don't have an explanation, the judge might make the order the other person asks for in your absence, and order costs against you.
If you and the other person come to an agreement before the hearing about any of the orders that the other person wants, you should both go to court on the date set for the hearing to tell the judge that you've both agreed. If you don't want to go to court, you can tell the other person that their application is not opposed.

Review and sign the order

Who writes the order?

After you appear in court, the other person (or their lawyer, if they have one) will prepare an order that says what the judge decided. If you or the other person is represented by a lawyer, the court usually requires that the lawyer prepare the order, no matter who started the application. Ask for a chance to review and sign the order once the lawyer's written it, before it's given to the court registry.

If you disagree with the way the order's written, you can request a copy of the clerk's notes from the registry to compare what the judge said with what's been written in the order. If you still disagree, you can apply to have the order settled. This means that the court registrar will figure out what the order should say. Get legal advice about this.

Disagreeing with what was ordered isn't the same as disagreeing with how it was written down in the order. If you disagree with what was ordered, get legal advice as soon as possible. You need to know if an appeal would be appropriate. If it would be, there are important time limits to know about. If an appeal isn't appropriate, you'll need to decide if you want to go to trial. Appeals are only successful if there's a significant error in the law. This doesn't happen often in family Chambers applications.

If you agree that the order as written or amended is correct, sign in the correct place on the last page of the order and return it to the person who sent it to you. Ask for a copy of the entered (filed) order to be sent to you. Before you return the signed order, make a copy of it for your records.

Get a copy of the final order

The other person will pick up the signed and entered order and mail a copy to you. This signed and sealed order is your official court order. Be sure to keep a copy of it.

If you don't receive a copy of the order within three or four weeks, you can go to the court registry and ask whether the order has been entered. If it has been, you can get a copy of the filed order from the court file. You might have to pay for photocopying.

If the court makes a child or spousal support order, you might want to register the order with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). FMEP's a provincial government service that helps people get the maintenance payments they're entitled to. If you're a payor under an order, it can be to your advantage to register, because FMEP keeps an accurate record of all the payments that you send. This prevents disputes (arguments) with the other person about whether money has been paid under the order.

Learn more about how the program works on the BC government website, or find out how to contact FMEP on their website.

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