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

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The court forms to start your claim

Most of the time you'll need to fill out a form called a Notice of Family Claim, Form F3.

In certain, relatively uncommon circumstances a family law proceeding is started with a Petition, Form F73. (Petitions are used when someone is asking for the return of a child under the Hague Convention on child abduction, and other orders that can be dealt with in a single hearing.)

Form F3 is available online. See the Supreme Court Forms section. The court will not provide you with a guide to filling this form out, so you must be as precise and accurate as possible.

There are a lot of free online resources that can help you complete these forms, but if you have any questions, you should really see a lawyer.

The Notice of Family Claim sets out the basic information about who you are, who the other side is, and describes the sorts of claims you are making.

You have to attach additional schedules to your Notice of Family Claim depending on the orders you are asking for. The schedules require you to provide more detailed information about your marriage, your children, your property and debts, and so forth.

Other forms you might need

If you are married and you are asking that the court make an order for your divorce, you must file the original copy of your marriage certificate. (This is the government document, not the certificate you received from the person who married you.)

If your claim involves the family home or other property, you may also want to prepare a certificate of pending litigation (called a CPL). (More information about CPLs is available in the section on certificates of pending litigation under the Land Title Act in the chapter Protecting Property & Debt in Family Law Matters.)

If your claim involves support, property or debt, you'll also wind up filling out a Financial Statement in Form F8. This isn't due until later on in the court proceeding but you can and should get started now.

If your claim involves guardianship of a child and you are not already a guardian, you'll need to fill out a special affidavit in Form F101. You don't have to file this form right away when you're starting a court proceeding, but the form can take some time to fill out and you will need to order records checks from the police and the Ministry of Children and Family Development. You might as well get on this now.

Filing your materials

When you've finished filling out your Notice of Family Claim, make three complete copies and take everything, including your marriage certificate and your CPL (if needed) to the courthouse.

If you are seeking a divorce, you will also be required to fill out a Registration of Divorce Proceeding form. This form must be completed using the online form, printed off (do not complete it by hand), and submitted to the court registry with your Notice of Family Claim. The court staff will send this document off to the Central Registry of Divorce Proceedings in Ottawa.

It will cost $200 for you to file your Notice of Family Claim ($210 if you are asking for an order for divorce as part of the Notice of Family Claim) plus another fee to file your CPL, if you need one.

The court will give your action a file number, and stamp all four copies of your materials with the seal of the court, a date stamp and the file number of your action. If you have filed a CPL, the court will stamp that too. Note that you must also file your CPL at the Land Title and Survey Authority for it to take effect; they will charge you another fee.

What happens next?

Once you've filed your Notice of Family Claim, you must arrange to have it served on the other side. You cannot serve the other person yourself, you must get someone else to do that for you, whether that person is a professional process server or a helpful friend.

After the other person has been served, they will have 30 days to file a Response to Family Claim. The other side may also file a form called a Counterclaim. If this happens, the other side is making a claim of their own against you.

When you have received the other person's Response to Family Claim, you will have to set up a judicial case conference (JCC). You can do this with a special form of Requisition that the registry will have on hand.

A JCC is an informal hearing before a judge or master intended to review the issues between the parties, and see what issues can be agreed on and what can't be. The judge or master will also canvass different ways of settling the action.

It can be very important to have a JCC as soon as possible, as most applications for interim orders can't be made until a JCC happens. There are some exceptions to this rule:

  • if you are making an application for a financial restraining order against your spouse,
  • if the other side consents to the order you want, or
  • if there is an emergency and you have to make your application without notice to the other side.

More information about JCCs and the rules that govern them is available in the section Case Conferences in a Family Law Matter in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court.

More information

You can find more information about starting a family law action in Supreme Court in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems in Court.

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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