Tips for drafting a Supreme Court order

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About orders

An order is the record of the judge's decision. It is filed at the court registry. The parties involved in a case (or their lawyers) are responsible for writing out the order. The judge or master who heard your case doesn't write the order. The court clerk doesn't write the order. (But in Provincial Court, court clerks do write out orders for unrepresented parties.)

The court rules contain different forms for different types of orders (see Which form do I use?), but those forms just show you what the outlines of the order look like. They don't tell you how to draft (write) the order.

Who drafts the order?

Usually the successful party drafts the order. If only one party has a lawyer, sometimes that lawyer will draft the order, even if they represented the unsuccessful party.

Which form do I use?

There are different types of orders and you must use the right form for your order. If you're using one of our self-help guides, it will tell you exactly which form to use and provide a link to the blank form.

The most common types of orders are:

Consent Order (Form F33): Used when both parties agree about what the order (final or interim) should say.

Order Made After Application (Form F51): Used for most types of contested orders made after a Chambers application (interim orders and changed orders). A contested order is when the parties don't agree on what the order should say.

Final Order (Form F52): Used in undefended divorces and for orders after a trial.

Order Made at Judicial Case Conference (Form F51.1): Used when a court order is made at a Judicial Case Conference.

Protection Order (Form F54): Used for an order to protect against and prevent family violence.

When do I draft the order?

When you start a family law case, you probably have a good idea of what order you want the court to make. This applies if you are:

  • making an application in Chambers
  • applying for a consent order
  • applying for a desk order divorce
  • asking for orders at a trial

For all of these, you have to tell the court what orders you want. To do this, you have to file a draft order when you file your other forms and documents at the court registry (for consent orders and desk-order divorces). If the judge or master makes the order you ask for, they'll sign the draft order you filed and it becomes your court order.

If there's a problem with your order and the judge or master doesn't approve it, the court registry will let you know. You might have to draft another version of the order or appear in court to give the judge or master more information about what you wrote in the order.

For Chambers applications, you can ask for the orders you want in either your Notice of Application or a draft court order. If the judge or master agrees to the order you've asked for, you can ask them to sign your draft order or initial your application, and that order or application becomes your court order.

If the judge or master makes a different order than the one you asked for, you'll have to start over and rewrite the order.

What should I put in the order?

If you're drafting a new order after a hearing, the order must say exactly what the judge or master said when they made the order in court.

Listen very carefully to what the judge or master says. If you don't understand something, ask the judge or master to explain it. If you think there's something missing from the order, ask about it.

The court clerk will take notes of what the judge or master says. Ask the clerk for a copy of any notes.

If there's more than one order in your court order, each order must be in a separate numbered paragraph (for example, an order for a divorce plus an order for child support would be in two numbered paragraphs in the court order).

If your court order includes orders about parenting or support, make sure it also shows whether the order is made under the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act.

The order must speak for itself. That means you must be able to look at just the order and understand exactly what it means. If you have to read other documents to understand your order, then it doesn't speak for itself.

The BC Supreme Court website provides a picklist of approved standard orders to help draft family law orders. You can use these standard orders when you draft your order. The picklist is available in PDF or Word format. When you open the file, you'll see a list of order terms, categorized by topic (for example, Divorce Act, guardianship, parental responsibilities). Scroll to the relevant topic, select the order that best describes your situation, and copy and paste it into your draft. You can use the same wording and just add your name(s).

Tip: See our self-help guide How to draft a Supreme Court order for detailed instructions on how to draft your order.

What happens after I draft the order?

After you draft the order, you can take it to the court registry and ask the staff there to tell you if it's in the right format. They will look at it for format only, not content.

Then you must give the order to the other party/parties who were at the hearing to sign. If the order was made after a hearing, you don't have to get a signature from a party who wasn't at the hearing and didn't agree to it. If the judge or master signed your draft order, you don't need to get the other party to sign it.

The other party can't refuse to sign it because they disagree with what the judge ordered. They can only refuse to sign it if they think you've recorded what the judge said incorrectly.

When everyone has signed the order, take it to the court registry. They'll check it against their notes and, if it's accurate, they'll enter it and stamp the entered order. This is your official court order that you can ask the court to enforce if necessary. Get a copy of it and make one for the other party.

What if the other party won't sign the order?

If you think the other party might refuse to sign the order, you can, at your hearing, ask the judge or master to "waive the requirement that the other party approve the form of the order."

If you and the other party can't agree on wording of the order, you can ask a court registrar to "settle the order." You can set this up by filing and serving an Appointment (Form F55). See Supreme Court Family Rule 15-1(13) for information about what you need to do in this case.

Special rules for consent orders

If you make a consent order during or after a hearing, a party who doesn't have a lawyer can consent (agree) in person at the hearing instead of signing the order.

How to spell the judge or master's name

If you don't know how to spell the name of the judge or master who made your order, you can look it up on the Members of the Supreme Court of British Columbia page of the Supreme Court website.

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