How Do I Make a Priority Parenting Matter Application in the Provincial Court?

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Priority parenting matters in BC Provincial Court[edit]

For most family law orders, the BC Provincial Court expects people to apply using the Form 3 Application About a Family Law Matter. See How Do I Start a Family Law Action in the Provincial Court? under the Helpful Guides & Common Questions section, for more about this standard process. There are exceptions to this usual process, however:

  • when someone needs to apply for a protection order,
  • when there's an agreement or court order that needs to be enforced, or
  • when there is a specific issue known as a priority parenting matter.

This page deals with the last item in that list. Priority parenting matters involve immediate concerns that could impact a child's well-being. Look at Form 15 Application About Priority Parenting Matter at paragraph and you will see nine specific family law issues that qualify for priority treatment. These priority parenting matters can be heard whether or not an existing family law case already exists. In practice, if your issue does not fall into one of these categories, you will probably not be able to convince a judge to make an order when you apply under this process.

What constitutes a priority parenting matter?[edit]

You should read the nine checkboxes on the Form 15 Application About Priority Parenting Matter, but here's a summary of the various kinds of issues that count as priority parenting matters:

  • Urgent health decisions (including giving or withdrawing consent for treatment) for a child where guardians are in disagreement (checkbox 1).
  • Immediate needs for passports, licenses, or benefits for a child (checkbox 2).
  • Wrongful denial of consent for a child to travel or participate in an activity (checkbox 3).
  • Issues relating to relocation or removal of a child, i.e.:
    • a guardian is about to relocate a child's residence, there is no existing court order or agreement between them and other guardians, and where the child's relationship with another guardian could be significantly impacted by the move (checkbox 4);
    • orders to prevent removal of a child from a geographical area, including orders to seize passports or take collateral in order to prevent removal (checkbox 5)
  • When other jurisdictions are involved, might get involved, or should get involved with parenting arrangements (generally called extraprovincial matters respecting parenting arrangements), and an order from the BC Provincial Court can help sort out where the dispute should be handled, where the child should be, or how the child can be protected in the meantime (checkboxes 6, 7, and 8).
  • Interventions by a director under the Child, Family and Community Service Act that involve removing the child from someone's care, and another person wants to get an order about parenting arrangements or guardianship (checkbox 9).

A common mistake people make is to apply for orders using the priority parenting matter process because they feel the issue is a priority (often understandably), but the matter is not technically a priority parenting matter within the meaning of the Provincial Court Family Rules. For example, a denial of parenting time is distressing, but it is not likely going to count as a priority parenting matter. If you had an agreement or court order that included terms for parenting arrangements, then you could file and serve a Form 29 Application about Enforcement to try and deal with the issue more urgently, but if you have informal parenting arrangements with another guardian and they suddenly start denying parenting time, you will have to proceed under the standard Form 3 Application About a Family Law Matter process.

Different than ordinary applications[edit]

Unlike ordinary applications for family law orders using Form 3, which allow 30 days for the other side to prepare their reply—and which deal with common issues like child or spousal support, parenting arrangements, guardianship, or contact with a child—applications about priority parenting matters are dealt with quickly due to their urgent nature. A typical court application process using Form 3 ensures fair timelines to give all parties an opportunity to prepare their evidence and arguments, but a priority parenting matter offers much less time to do this. Priority applications bypass other steps that would normally take place if only a Form 3 Application About a Family Law Matter were filed. The court may allow priority parenting matter applications to proceed with less than 7 days' notice or even without notice to the other party in special circumstances.

How to make a priority parenting matter application[edit]

To make an application for a priority parenting matter that gives the other side at least seven days notice, you will need to complete and file a Form 15 Application About Priority Parenting Matter. As mentioned, a priority parenting matter can be heard whether or not an existing case has been created. If a Form 3 Application About a Family Law Matter has already been filed in your case, however, you must file your Form 15 Application About Priority Parenting Matter in the same court registry. The staff may book a date for the hearing of your application right there. The hearing date will be written on your Form 15 Application About Priorty Parenting Matter.

You must serve the filed Form 15 Application About Priority Parenting Matter on the other side at least seven days before the date set for the hearing, along with a copy of any documents you intend to use at the hearing (such as affidavits).

If your matter is so urgent that it cannot wait at least seven days, you can also file a Form 11 Application for Case Management Without Notice or Attendance with your Form 15 Application About Priority Parenting Matter and ask the judge to:

  • waive the requirement to give any notice to the other party (an application without notice means the other side is not told about the application), or
  • ask the judge to shorten the notice requirement to something less than seven days.
  • Filing Location: File your Form 15 at the court registry where the initial Form 3 Application to Obtain an Order was filed (if there is an existing case).
  • Service: Serve the filed Form 15 on the other party at least seven days before the hearing date, unless the court allows for shorter notice.
  • Additional Forms: If the matter is extremely urgent, you may also need to complete a Form 11 Application for Case Management Order Without Notice or Attendance.

The rules[edit]

Consult the Provincial Court Family Rules:

  • Rule 75-79: applications for priority parenting matters
  • Rule 171-175: affidavits

Additional Resources[edit]

You should consider using the BC Government's new online form filing service which walks you through and automates much of the application process. The service is available online: Apply for a Family Law Act Order.

Legal Aid BC's Family Law website also has a useful guide on how to get an order about priority parenting matters.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Matthew Ostrow, October 31, 2023.

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