How Do I Start a Family Law Action in the Provincial Court?

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Starting a court proceeding in the Provincial Court is fairly straightforward. Essentially, you have to fill out a document called an Application to Obtain an Order and file it in the registry of the court closest to you.

There are no filing fees, and the court will tell you how to go about serving the other side.

You can get a copy of the Application to Obtain an Order from the court registry for free. The forms are also available online; see the Provincial Court Forms section. The version of the form that you can get from the court registry includes lots of information about how to fill it out.

If you are making a claim for spousal support or child support, you'll also have to fill out a form called a Financial Statement. The court registry will provide you with this form. Again, the form is fairly easy to fill out. However, there are certain documents that you must gather and attach to the form, including your last three years' worth of tax returns, your most recent paystub, and so forth.

If you are making a claim for guardianship of a child, you will also have to fill out a special affidavit in Form 34, and provide copies of recent police and Ministry of Children and Family Development records checks.

When to use the Provincial Court[edit]

The authority of the Provincial Court is limited and it can only deal with certain issues. You should use the Provincial Court when the things you need to deal with involve any of the following:

  • guardianship of children,
  • parenting arrangements for children,
  • contact with a child,
  • child support,
  • spousal support, and
  • protection orders.

When not to use the Provincial Court[edit]

The Provincial Court cannot deal with issues involving property or debts. The Provincial Court cannot make orders under the Divorce Act, including divorce orders. If you need orders about property, debt or divorce, you might think about starting your court proceeding in the Supreme Court which can deal with all of these issues and all of the issues that the Provincial Court can deal with.

What happens next?[edit]

Once you've filed your Application to Obtain an Order, you'll have to have it served on the other person and get your process server to complete an Affidavit of Service. Once the other person has been served, they will have 30 days to file a form called a Reply, and, if either of you are making a claim for spousal support or child support, their Financial Statement as well. The court will mail you a copy of these documents. they When the court receives the other person's Reply, the court will normally set up an appointment for you to meet with a family justice counsellor or schedule a date for an initial meeting with the court, called a first appearance. The family justice counsellor's job is to see whether any of your issues can be resolved, to give you information about the law and other dispute resolutions and to try, if you're interested, to mediate your dispute. The family justice counsellor can also prepare consent orders, that is, an order that you and the other person both agree the court should make.

If you are unable to reach an agreement after seeing the family justice counsellor, you can ask to be referred to a judge for a hearing of the issues. The court registry will book a time for the hearing and send a notice of the hearing to you and the other side.

For more information[edit]

You can find more information about this in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court within the section Starting a Court Proceeding in a Family Matter.

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Thomas Wallwork, May 9, 2017.

Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.

Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most of the trials in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and has no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court" and "Supreme Court of Canada."

A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family law proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or any claims under the Divorce Act. See "Divorce Act," "judge" and "jurisdiction."

A legal proceeding in which one party sues another for a specific remedy or relief, also called an "action," a "lawsuit," or a "case." A court proceeding for divorce, for example, is a proceeding in which the claimant sues the respondent for the relief of a divorce order.

A legal document required by the Provincial Court Family Rules to start a court proceeding which sets out the relief sought by the applicant against the person named as respondent. See "action," "applicant," "pleadings," "relief" and "respondent."

(1) A central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed, or (2) a courthouse.

A central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched and reviewed.

(1) The assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; (2) the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding.

A payment made by one spouse to the other spouse to help with the recipient's day-to-day living expenses or to compensate the recipient for the financial choices the spouses made during the relationship.

Money paid by one parent or guardian to another parent or guardian as a contribution toward the cost of a child's living and other expenses.

A legal document required by the rules of court in which a party to a court proceeding involving child support, spousal support, the division of property, or the division of debt must describe their income, expenses, assets, and liabilities under oath or affirmation. See "affirm," "oath," and "perjury."

A person who is younger than the legal age of majority, 19 in British Columbia. See "age of majority."

A term under the Family Law Act which describes the arrangements for parental responsibilities and parenting time among guardians, made in an order or agreement. "Parenting arrangements" does not include contact. See "contact," "guardian," "parental responsibilities" and "parenting time."

A term under the Family Law Act that describes the visitation rights of a person who is not a guardian with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by an agreement among the child's guardians with parental responsibility for making decisions about contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."

Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."

The legal termination of a valid marriage by an order of a judge; the ending of a marital relationship and the conjugal obligations of each spouse to the other. See "conjugal rights," "marriage" and "marriage, validity of."

A sum of money or an obligation owed by one person to another. A "debtor" is a person responsible for paying a debt; a "creditor" is the person to whom the debt is owed.

A legal document required by the Provincial Court Family Rules to respond to a claim made in an applicant's Application to Obtain an Order. See "applicant," "Application to Obtain an Order," "claim" and "Counterclaim."

A mandatory direction of the court that is binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. Failing to abide by the terms of an order may constitute contempt of court. See "appeal," "consent order," "contempt of court," "decision" and "declaration."

A person appointed by the federal or provincial government to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government, or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, subject to appeal.

In law, any proceeding before a judicial official to determine questions of law and questions of fact, including the hearing of an application and the hearing of a trial. See "decision."

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