Difference between revisions of "Responding to Divorce Proceedings"

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{{REVIEWEDPLS | reviewer = [https://www.watsongoepel.com/people/shelagh-c-kinney/ Shelagh Kinney], Watson Goepel|date= April 2020}} {{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = divorce}}
This script will be helpful if your spouse is about to begin divorce proceedings, or if you’ve already been served with divorce papers. In most cases, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to represent you, but this script should give you a general understanding of your situation. Note that you only have a limited time to respond to the divorce papers.
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If a divorce proceeding has been started against you, you have two choices: do nothing or respond. Learn what’s involved in responding to divorce proceedings in BC.
  
This script will be helpful if your spouse is about to begin divorce proceedings, or if you’ve already been served with divorce papers. In most cases, you’ll want to hire a lawyer to represent you, but this script should give you a general understanding of your situation. Note that you only have a limited time to respond to the divorce papers.
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{| class="wikitable"
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|align="left"|'''Alert!'''
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This information has been updated to reflect [https://dialalaw.peopleslawschool.ca/the-divorce-act-is-changing changes to the ''Divorce Act''] that took effect on March 1, 2021.
 +
|}
  
This script only applies to married spouses. Unmarried spouses and other unmarried couples do not need to get a divorce.
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==What you should know==
  
==What are the court forms used to start a divorce court case?==
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===A notice of family claim starts a divorce proceeding===
The document you’ll receive (or have already received) is called a Notice of Family Claim. Your spouse, the person who started the court case, is called the claimant. You are the respondent.
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{{PLSStorybox
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| image = [[File:rhyan.png|link=]]
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| text      = “I was served with divorce papers five days ago. I don’t agree with everything my spouse is asking for. So I’m putting together a response. I have to file my papers in Supreme Court in the next few weeks. I’ve set up an appointment for next week with a family lawyer — for free — because I have some questions before I file my paperwork.” <br>– Rhyan, Cranbrook, BC
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}}
  
The claimant must arrange for personal service of the Notice of Family Claim. This means that the Notice of Family Claim must be delivered to you in person. If you’re not available to receive the papers or the claimant has difficulty personally serving you, he or she can ask the court to serve you “substitutionally” by, for example, leaving the papers at your last known address, with your close relatives, or in your mailbox.
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When your spouse starts divorce proceedings, they file a '''notice of family claim''' in BC Supreme Court. Your spouse is the '''claimant'''. You are called the '''respondent'''.
  
Make sure you read the Notice of Family Claim carefully. This document states the orders that the claimant wants the court to make. Whether and how you respond to the Notice of Family Claims depends on the orders the claimant is asking for.
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====You must be served with the notice====
 +
As the claimant, your spouse must arrange for the notice of family claim to be '''personally served''' on you. This means it must be given to you in person, but not by your spouse.
  
==Consider consulting a lawyer==
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If you aren’t available to receive the papers or the claimant has trouble serving you personally, they can seek the court’s permission to serve you '''substitutionally'''. That means using a different method of service. It might involve, for example, leaving the papers at your last known address, with your close relatives, or in your mailbox.
Because the claims made in the Notice of Family Claim could significantly affect your rights, you should consider asking a lawyer to review them with you and explain exactly what orders your spouse is asking the court to make.
 
  
==There are strict time limits to respond==
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====Read the notice====
You must respond to the Notice of Family Claim within 30 days of the date you were served by filing a Response to Family Claim in court and serving the filed Response to Family Claim on the claimant by “ordinary service.” It is very important that you do this if you disagree with any of the orders the claimant is asking for. If you don’t respond, the court can make orders without any further notice to you.
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Read the notice of family claim carefully. It sets out the court orders your spouse wants the court to make. If and how you respond to the notice depends on the orders your spouse is asking for, and whether or not you agree with the claims.
  
Ordinary service means mailing or faxing (or sometimes emailing) a document to the claimant’s Address for Service, which can include a fax number for service and an email address for service. The claimant’s Address for Service will be set out in his or her Notice of Family Claim.
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{| class="wikitable"
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|align="left"|'''Tip'''
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The claims in a divorce proceeding could significantly affect your rights. Consider asking a lawyer to review the notice of family claim with you and explain what it means. See below under “Who can help” for free and low-cost options for advice.
 +
|}
  
==What’s in the Notice of Family Claim?==
+
===The notice can include several claims===
The Notice of Family Claim gives the court basic information about you and your spouse, and the details of your marriage and separation. The schedules to the Notice of Family Claim describe the orders your spouse is asking the court to make. At a minimum, this will be an order for your divorce, but your spouse can also ask for orders about the parenting of your children, spousal support and child support, the division of family property and family debt and other subjects.
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The notice of family claim gives the court basic information about you, your spouse, and any children. It also includes information about your marriage and separation. And it describes the orders your spouse is asking the court to make, such as for a divorce, support, and a division of property and debts.
  
==The reasons why your spouse is asking for a divorce will be given==
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====The grounds for divorce====
For information on the legal grounds for divorce, refer to script [[Requirements for Divorce and Annulment (Script 120)|120]] called “Requirements for Divorce and Annulment”. If you don’t dispute the basis upon which your spouse is applying for a divorce, such as a one-year separation, you might not object. On the other hand, if he or she is claiming adultery or cruelty and those claims aren’t true, you might want to contest the court case.
+
To get a divorce, your spouse must show your '''marriage has broken down'''. This can be done in three ways:
  
==Consider carefully the claims made==
+
* by showing the two of you have lived apart for at least one year,  
The claimant’s “claims” are the orders your spouse wants the court to make. If your spouse is seeking sole custody of the children under the ''Divorce Act'', do you feel that joint custody is better, or should you have sole custody? If property is to be divided, do you want half or more than half of the family property? Is there a reason to apply to share of your spouse’s excluded property? If you dispute any of the claimant’s claims, you must do so in a Response to Family Claim, which is explained a little later. If you wish to make claims of your own, you must do so in a Counterclaim, also explained later on in this script.
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* by showing you committed adultery, or  
 +
* by showing you treated your spouse with cruelty that makes living together intolerable.
  
==What if you don’t agree with what’s being asked for in the Notice of Family Claim?==
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The notice of family claim will state your spouse’s reason for marriage breakdown, such as being separated for a year. You may agree with this. On the other hand, if your spouse is claiming adultery or cruelty and those claims aren’t true, you probably won’t agree. For more on the legal basis for divorce, [[Requirements for Divorce and Annulment|see our information on the requirements for divorce]].
You should file a Response to Family Claim, which tells the court what claims you agree with and which you oppose. Be aware, however, that filing a Response to Family Claim changes the proceeding from an “uncontested divorce proceeding” which doesn’t require an appearance before a judge to a “contested divorce” that a trial may be necessary to resolve if they can’t be settled beforehand.
 
  
==What if you want to make your own claims?==
+
====Other claims====
If you have claims of your own that you want to make, for example about the parenting of your children, child support, spousal support, the division of property and debt, or another order, you must file a document called a Counterclaim. The Counterclaim states the orders that you want the court to make.
+
In the notice of family claim that starts a divorce proceeding, your spouse can also ask for orders about other issues. These might include the parenting and support of your children, spousal support, the division of family property and debts, and other matters.
  
==What’s a “judicial case conference”?==
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Carefully consider what your spouse is asking for. If you have children, your spouse may be asking for parenting time and all decision-making responsibility under the ''Divorce Act''. Do you feel that shared decision-making responsibility would be better? Or do you believe that ''you'' should have all decision-making responsibility? If your spouse is seeking a 50/50 division of family property, do you feel you should get more than half?
You or the claimant can schedule a judicial case conference after you have filed a Response to Family Claim or Counterclaim. A JCC is an informal hearing before a judge or master to talk about the claims each of you have made, see what can be agreed to and talk about how the claims will be resolved. JCCs are held in private and on a “without prejudice” basis. Without prejudice means that each of you can make settlement proposals at the JCC without being held to your proposal later on.
 
  
==The JCC is an excellent opportunity to tell the judge and the claimant what you really want==
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It’s a good idea to meet with a family lawyer and get legal advice if your spouse is making claims beyond seeking an order for divorce.
Everything you say at a JCC is confidential and cannot be repeated outside the hearing room or used later, so speak your mind and explain what orders you’re looking for and why. The judge won’t make any decisions, however, unless you and your spouse both agree.
 
  
==When will the divorce be granted?==
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===If you don’t agree with the notice of family claim===  
If the claim for divorce is based on separation, the divorce order can be made any time after the one-year period is over. If the claim is based on cruelty or adultery, the order can be made at any time. (Remember that no matter why the divorce is claimed, the court must be satisfied that adequate arrangements have been made for the financial support of any children before it can make the divorce order.)
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If you disagree with any of the orders your spouse is asking for in the notice of family claim, you must respond. You do that by filling out a '''response to family claim''' (form F4). Part of this form involves certifying that you know about your duties under the ''Divorce Act'' to:
  
Although the divorce order can be made before all of the issues are resolved, the court will usually be reluctant to make a divorce order in advance without a very good reason for doing so.
+
* exercise parenting rights in the best interests of the children,  
 +
* protect your children from conflict because of the court case,
 +
* try to resolve your disagreements through mediation, collaborative negotiation, or arbitration, and
 +
* provide complete, accurate, and up-to-date information as required.  
  
==What is an “interim application”?==
+
Once you’ve completed the form, you must file it in the same court in which the notice of family claim was filed.
It can take a year or more from the time the Notice of Family Claim is filed to have a trial if a divorce proceeding can’t be settled. Before the trial, you or your spouse may need the court to make temporary orders about important issues, such as the payment of child support or spousal support, where the children will live, or who will live in the family home. These are called “interim orders,” and are made following a party’s application to the court, called an “interim application.” Interim orders last until another interim order is made or until the final order ending the case is made.
 
  
Interim applications are made by filing a Notice of Application (a court form which explains the orders you want the court to make and sets the date for the hearing of the application) and a supporting affidavit (a sworn statement describing the background to the application), to which the other spouse will have the opportunity to reply. Typically, these pre-trial applications take anywhere from 15 minutes to 3 hours to complete, depending on the complexity of the issues.
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Along with your response, you may need to fill out and file other forms (such as a financial statement), depending on what claims your spouse is making. Then, you must serve the filed court forms on your spouse.
  
Interim applications should be taken very seriously as interim orders are often influential in the final outcome of the case. For more information, see script [[Applying for an Interim Order in a Family Law Case in the Supreme Court (Script 112)|112]] on “Applying for an Interim Order in a Family Law Case in the Supreme Court”.
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{| class="wikitable"
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|align="left"|'''Tip'''
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You can '''download''' the response to family claim form, as well as other court forms, on the B[https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/courthouse-services/documents-forms-records/court-forms/sup-family-forms C government website]. The wikibook ''JP Boyd on Family Law'' includes [[Supreme_Court_Forms_(Family_Law)|samples of many completed forms]].
 +
|}
  
==Remember that each time you go to court, it will cost time and money==
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===There are time limits to respond===
The more you can agree on things with your spouse, the easier it will be for each of you. Try to save interim applications for really important problems, and always (if you can) see whether you can reach an agreement about the interim application before going to court. If you need help talking with your spouse, you can contact a mediator. For more information on mediation, refer to script [[Mediation and Collaborative Settlement Processes (Script 111)|111]] on “Mediation and Collaborative Settlement Processes”.
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If you don’t agree with any of the orders your spouse is asking for, you must respond to the notice of family claim. You need to do so '''within 30 days of the date you were served'''.
  
==Can you object to a divorce?==
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===If you want to make your own claims===
You can object to a divorce, but you’re not likely to succeed. Most of the time, the judge will make a divorce order as long as the ground for the divorce is proven, whether you want the divorce or not. There are rare situations where a divorce might be refused, for example, if the divorce means the termination of pension benefits a spouse is receiving or if adequate arrangements have not been made for the support of any children.
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If you have claims of your own you want to make — for example, about the parenting of your children, support, or how to divide property — you must file a '''counterclaim'''. The counterclaim says what orders you want the court to make. Just as you did with the response, you must fill out, file, and serve the counterclaim on your spouse. You must do this '''within 30 days''' of the date you were served with the notice of family claim.
  
==When does the divorce order take effect?==
+
==Common questions==
Divorce orders take effect 31 days after the date the order is made, unless the judge making the divorce order says that it will take effect sooner. The reason for the delay is to allow a spouse to appeal the divorce. Appeals like these are very rare.
 
  
==What are your rights after the divorce order is made?==
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===What if I don’t respond?===
If your divorce order doesn’t make orders about the division of property or debt and you didn’t claim a division of assets in your Notice of Family Claim or Counterclaim, you have two years after the date of your divorce to make the claim under the ''Family Law Act''. After the two years, you will be out of time to make the claim.
+
It’s very important to respond if you disagree with any of the orders your spouse is asking for. If you don’t, the court can make the orders your spouse is asking for without any further notice to you.
  
Divorced spouses are always entitled to make a claim for spousal support under the ''Divorce Act'', no matter how long they have been divorced. Divorced spouses are always entitled to make a claim about children, such as claims for custody or child support, as long as the children qualify as “children of the marriage” under the ''Divorce Act'' or as “children” under the ''Family Law Act''.
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If your spouse is only asking for a divorce and you don’t respond, the proceeding will become an '''uncontested divorce proceeding'''. But if you file a response to family claim, the divorce proceeding is '''contested'''. In that kind of proceeding, there’s usually disagreement about how to settle some or all of the family law issues. A trial may be necessary if you can’t reach an agreement.
  
==More information==
+
===Can I object to a divorce?===
 +
You can object, but you’re unlikely to succeed. Most of the time, the judge will make a divorce order as long as the basis for the divorce is proven. It doesn’t matter whether you want it or not. In some rare situations a judge ''may'' refuse a divorce. For example, a divorce wouldn’t be granted if reasonable arrangements haven’t been made for the support of any children. The judge could also refuse to grant a divorce if it would mean the end of the pension benefits a spouse is receiving, at least until the property division and any support claims are dealt with.
  
*For more information about divorce and divorce proceedings see the [[Divorce]] page of the wikibook ''JP Boyd on Family Law'', published by Courthouse Libraries BC.
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===What’s a judicial case conference?===
*For more information about responding to a divorce proceeding, see the page [[Replying to a Court Proceeding in a Family Matter]].
+
After you file a response, you or the claimant can schedule a '''judicial case conference'''. This is an informal meeting with a judge or master to talk about the claims each of you has made, see what can be agreed to, and talk about how the claims will be resolved.  
  
 +
A judicial case conference (or JCC) is a good time to tell the judge — and your spouse — what you really want. The conference is held in private and everything you say is confidential and '''without prejudice'''. This means it can’t be repeated outside the meeting room or used against you later if you don’t reach an agreement. The judge won’t make any decisions unless you and your spouse both agree. But, the judge can make procedural orders, including asking you or your spouse (or both of you) to provide required financial information.
  
[updated October 2014]
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===What about urgent family law issues?===
 +
From the time a notice of family claim is filed, it can take a year or more to have a trial if a case can’t be settled out of court. Before the trial, you or your spouse may need the court to make '''temporary orders''' about important issues such as:
  
 +
* the payment of child support or spousal support 
 +
* where the children will live 
 +
* who will live in the family home
  
----
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These are called '''interim orders'''. They can be made when one or both of you make an interim application to the court. An interim (or temporary) order lasts until another interim order is made. Or it will stay in place until the final order ending the case is made at trial or by agreement.
----
 
  
 +
Interim applications should be taken very seriously. Interim orders can influence the final outcome of the case. For more, [[Applying for an Interim Order in a Family Law Case in Supreme Court|see our information on applying for an interim order in a family law case in Supreme Court]].
  
 +
{| class="wikitable"
 +
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
 +
Each time you go to court, it costs time and money. Try to save interim applications for really important problems. The more you can agree on things with your spouse, the easier and less expensive the court process will be for each of you.
 +
|}
 +
 +
===When will the divorce be granted?===
 +
If the claim for divorce is based on a one-year separation, a divorce application and divorce order can be made any time '''after''' the one-year period is over. If the divorce claim is based on cruelty or adultery, the order can be made at any time. But, there must be evidence to support those claims.
 +
 +
No matter what the claim is based on, the court must be satisfied that reasonable arrangements have been made for the financial support of any children. Otherwise it will not make the divorce order.
 +
 +
A divorce order can be made before all the issues are resolved. But the court will usually be hesitant to do so without a very good reason (such as remarriage).
 +
 +
===When does the divorce order take effect?===
 +
Divorce orders take effect '''31 days after''' the date the divorce order is made. That’s unless there are special circumstances and the judge says it will take effect sooner. The delay is to allow a spouse to appeal the divorce. Appeals like these are very rare.
 +
 +
===Can I make a claim after the divorce order is made?===
 +
If your divorce order doesn’t cover the division of property or debt and you didn’t claim a division of property in the divorce proceeding, you have '''two years''' after the date of your divorce to make a claim under the ''Family Law Act''. The same deadline applies to seeking spousal support for the first time under the ''Family Law Act''.
 +
 +
Divorced spouses can always claim spousal support under the ''Divorce Act''. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been divorced.
 +
 +
Divorced spouses can always make a claim about children — such as claims for parental responsibility, decision-making responsibility, parenting time, or child support. That’s as long as the children qualify as “children of the marriage” under the ''Divorce Act'' or as “children” under the ''Family Law Act''.
 +
 +
==Who can help==
 +
 +
===With more information===
 +
The '''Family Law in BC''' website from Legal Aid BC has a free step-by-step guide for responding to Supreme Court proceedings.
 +
 +
* [https://family.legalaid.bc.ca/bc-legal-system/ive-been-served-court-form/served-supreme-court-form/respond-application-get-new#0 Visit website]
 +
 +
The wikibook ''JP Boyd on Family Law'' includes information on replying to a court proceeding in a family matter.
 +
* [[Replying to a Court Proceeding in a Family Matter|Visit website]]
 +
 +
===Free and low-cost legal help===
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Unbundling allows you to hire a lawyer for specific parts of your case or to coach you through the court process. '''Unbundled Legal Services''' lists family law lawyers who offer these services.
 +
 +
* [http://unbundlinglaw.ca/ Visit website]
 +
 +
Other options for legal help include legal aid, pro bono services, legal clinics, and advocates. [[Free and Low-Cost Legal Help|See our information on free and low-cost legal help]].
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Latest revision as of 12:56, 13 May 2021

This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Shelagh Kinney, Watson Goepel in April 2020.

If a divorce proceeding has been started against you, you have two choices: do nothing or respond. Learn what’s involved in responding to divorce proceedings in BC.

Alert!

This information has been updated to reflect changes to the Divorce Act that took effect on March 1, 2021.

What you should know[edit]

A notice of family claim starts a divorce proceeding[edit]

When your spouse starts divorce proceedings, they file a notice of family claim in BC Supreme Court. Your spouse is the claimant. You are called the respondent.

You must be served with the notice[edit]

As the claimant, your spouse must arrange for the notice of family claim to be personally served on you. This means it must be given to you in person, but not by your spouse.

If you aren’t available to receive the papers or the claimant has trouble serving you personally, they can seek the court’s permission to serve you substitutionally. That means using a different method of service. It might involve, for example, leaving the papers at your last known address, with your close relatives, or in your mailbox.

Read the notice[edit]

Read the notice of family claim carefully. It sets out the court orders your spouse wants the court to make. If and how you respond to the notice depends on the orders your spouse is asking for, and whether or not you agree with the claims.

Tip

The claims in a divorce proceeding could significantly affect your rights. Consider asking a lawyer to review the notice of family claim with you and explain what it means. See below under “Who can help” for free and low-cost options for advice.

The notice can include several claims[edit]

The notice of family claim gives the court basic information about you, your spouse, and any children. It also includes information about your marriage and separation. And it describes the orders your spouse is asking the court to make, such as for a divorce, support, and a division of property and debts.

The grounds for divorce[edit]

To get a divorce, your spouse must show your marriage has broken down. This can be done in three ways:

  • by showing the two of you have lived apart for at least one year,
  • by showing you committed adultery, or
  • by showing you treated your spouse with cruelty that makes living together intolerable.

The notice of family claim will state your spouse’s reason for marriage breakdown, such as being separated for a year. You may agree with this. On the other hand, if your spouse is claiming adultery or cruelty and those claims aren’t true, you probably won’t agree. For more on the legal basis for divorce, see our information on the requirements for divorce.

Other claims[edit]

In the notice of family claim that starts a divorce proceeding, your spouse can also ask for orders about other issues. These might include the parenting and support of your children, spousal support, the division of family property and debts, and other matters.

Carefully consider what your spouse is asking for. If you have children, your spouse may be asking for parenting time and all decision-making responsibility under the Divorce Act. Do you feel that shared decision-making responsibility would be better? Or do you believe that you should have all decision-making responsibility? If your spouse is seeking a 50/50 division of family property, do you feel you should get more than half?

It’s a good idea to meet with a family lawyer and get legal advice if your spouse is making claims beyond seeking an order for divorce.

If you don’t agree with the notice of family claim[edit]

If you disagree with any of the orders your spouse is asking for in the notice of family claim, you must respond. You do that by filling out a response to family claim (form F4). Part of this form involves certifying that you know about your duties under the Divorce Act to:

  • exercise parenting rights in the best interests of the children,
  • protect your children from conflict because of the court case,
  • try to resolve your disagreements through mediation, collaborative negotiation, or arbitration, and
  • provide complete, accurate, and up-to-date information as required.

Once you’ve completed the form, you must file it in the same court in which the notice of family claim was filed.

Along with your response, you may need to fill out and file other forms (such as a financial statement), depending on what claims your spouse is making. Then, you must serve the filed court forms on your spouse.

Tip

You can download the response to family claim form, as well as other court forms, on the BC government website. The wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law includes samples of many completed forms.

There are time limits to respond[edit]

If you don’t agree with any of the orders your spouse is asking for, you must respond to the notice of family claim. You need to do so within 30 days of the date you were served.

If you want to make your own claims[edit]

If you have claims of your own you want to make — for example, about the parenting of your children, support, or how to divide property — you must file a counterclaim. The counterclaim says what orders you want the court to make. Just as you did with the response, you must fill out, file, and serve the counterclaim on your spouse. You must do this within 30 days of the date you were served with the notice of family claim.

Common questions[edit]

What if I don’t respond?[edit]

It’s very important to respond if you disagree with any of the orders your spouse is asking for. If you don’t, the court can make the orders your spouse is asking for without any further notice to you.

If your spouse is only asking for a divorce and you don’t respond, the proceeding will become an uncontested divorce proceeding. But if you file a response to family claim, the divorce proceeding is contested. In that kind of proceeding, there’s usually disagreement about how to settle some or all of the family law issues. A trial may be necessary if you can’t reach an agreement.

Can I object to a divorce?[edit]

You can object, but you’re unlikely to succeed. Most of the time, the judge will make a divorce order as long as the basis for the divorce is proven. It doesn’t matter whether you want it or not. In some rare situations a judge may refuse a divorce. For example, a divorce wouldn’t be granted if reasonable arrangements haven’t been made for the support of any children. The judge could also refuse to grant a divorce if it would mean the end of the pension benefits a spouse is receiving, at least until the property division and any support claims are dealt with.

What’s a judicial case conference?[edit]

After you file a response, you or the claimant can schedule a judicial case conference. This is an informal meeting with a judge or master to talk about the claims each of you has made, see what can be agreed to, and talk about how the claims will be resolved.

A judicial case conference (or JCC) is a good time to tell the judge — and your spouse — what you really want. The conference is held in private and everything you say is confidential and without prejudice. This means it can’t be repeated outside the meeting room or used against you later if you don’t reach an agreement. The judge won’t make any decisions unless you and your spouse both agree. But, the judge can make procedural orders, including asking you or your spouse (or both of you) to provide required financial information.

What about urgent family law issues?[edit]

From the time a notice of family claim is filed, it can take a year or more to have a trial if a case can’t be settled out of court. Before the trial, you or your spouse may need the court to make temporary orders about important issues such as:

  • the payment of child support or spousal support
  • where the children will live
  • who will live in the family home

These are called interim orders. They can be made when one or both of you make an interim application to the court. An interim (or temporary) order lasts until another interim order is made. Or it will stay in place until the final order ending the case is made at trial or by agreement.

Interim applications should be taken very seriously. Interim orders can influence the final outcome of the case. For more, see our information on applying for an interim order in a family law case in Supreme Court.

Tip

Each time you go to court, it costs time and money. Try to save interim applications for really important problems. The more you can agree on things with your spouse, the easier and less expensive the court process will be for each of you.

When will the divorce be granted?[edit]

If the claim for divorce is based on a one-year separation, a divorce application and divorce order can be made any time after the one-year period is over. If the divorce claim is based on cruelty or adultery, the order can be made at any time. But, there must be evidence to support those claims.

No matter what the claim is based on, the court must be satisfied that reasonable arrangements have been made for the financial support of any children. Otherwise it will not make the divorce order.

A divorce order can be made before all the issues are resolved. But the court will usually be hesitant to do so without a very good reason (such as remarriage).

When does the divorce order take effect?[edit]

Divorce orders take effect 31 days after the date the divorce order is made. That’s unless there are special circumstances and the judge says it will take effect sooner. The delay is to allow a spouse to appeal the divorce. Appeals like these are very rare.

Can I make a claim after the divorce order is made?[edit]

If your divorce order doesn’t cover the division of property or debt and you didn’t claim a division of property in the divorce proceeding, you have two years after the date of your divorce to make a claim under the Family Law Act. The same deadline applies to seeking spousal support for the first time under the Family Law Act.

Divorced spouses can always claim spousal support under the Divorce Act. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been divorced.

Divorced spouses can always make a claim about children — such as claims for parental responsibility, decision-making responsibility, parenting time, or child support. That’s as long as the children qualify as “children of the marriage” under the Divorce Act or as “children” under the Family Law Act.

Who can help[edit]

With more information[edit]

The Family Law in BC website from Legal Aid BC has a free step-by-step guide for responding to Supreme Court proceedings.

The wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law includes information on replying to a court proceeding in a family matter.

Free and low-cost legal help[edit]

Unbundling allows you to hire a lawyer for specific parts of your case or to coach you through the court process. Unbundled Legal Services lists family law lawyers who offer these services.

Other options for legal help include legal aid, pro bono services, legal clinics, and advocates. See our information on free and low-cost legal help.

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