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.
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