Difference between revisions of "Responding to Divorce Proceedings"

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{{REVIEWEDPLS | reviewer = [http://bhmlawyers.ca/team-2/samantha-de-wit/ Samantha de Wit], Brown Henderson Melbye, and [http://jimalelawcorp.com/about-zahra/ Zahra H. Jimale], Jimale Law Corporation|date= October 2018}} {{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = divorce}}
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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}}
If a divorce proceeding has been started against you, you have two choices: do nothing or respond to the proceeding. Learn what’s involved in '''responding to divorce proceedings''' in BC.
+
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.
  
==Understand your legal rights==
+
{| class="wikitable"
 +
|align="left"|'''Alert!'''
 +
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.
 +
|}
 +
 
 +
==What you should know==
 +
 
 +
===A notice of family claim starts a divorce proceeding===
 +
{{PLSStorybox
 +
| image = [[File:rhyan.png|link=]]
 +
| 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
 +
}}
  
===A divorce proceeding begins with a notice of claim===
+
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'''.
When your spouse begins divorce proceedings, they file '''notice of claim''' in court. Your spouse is the '''claimant'''. You are called the '''respondent'''.
 
  
====The notice of claim must be served on you====
+
====You must be served with the notice====
The claimant must arrange for the notice of claim to be '''personally served''' on the respondent. This means the notice of claim must be given to you in person by someone other than your spouse.  
+
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’re not available to receive the papers or the claimant has trouble serving you personally, they can seek the court’s permission to serve you '''substitutionally'''. This might involve, for example, leaving the papers at your last known address, with your close relatives, or in your mailbox.
+
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 of claim====
+
====Read the notice====
Read the notice of claim carefully. It states the orders the claimant wants the court to make. Whether and how you respond to the notice of claim depends on the orders the claimant is asking for and whether you agree with the claims or not.
+
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.
  
 
{| class="wikitable"
 
{| class="wikitable"
 
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
 
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
Because the claims in a divorce proceeding could significantly affect your rights, you should consider asking a lawyer to review the notice of claim with you and explain what it means.
+
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.
 
|}
 
|}
  
===There are time limits to respond===
+
===The notice can include several claims===
You must respond to the notice of claim '''within 30 days of the date you were served'''. You respond by filing a '''response''' in court and serving the filed response on the claimant.
+
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====
 +
To get a divorce, your spouse must show your '''marriage has broken down'''. This can be done in three ways:
  
It is very important to respond if you disagree with any of the orders the claimant is asking for. If you don’t respond, the court can make the orders your spouse is asking for without any further notice to you.
+
* 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.
  
You can serve the response on the claimant by '''ordinary service'''. This involves mailing or faxing (or sometimes emailing) the document to the claimant’s “address for service”. The claimant’s address for service will be set out in their notice of claim.
+
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]].
  
===The notice of claim can include several claims===  
+
====Other claims====
The notice of claim gives the court basic information about you and your spouse, and information about your marriage and separation. It describes the orders your spouse is asking the court to make. At a minimum, this will be an order for divorce.
+
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.
 
====The grounds for divorce====
 
To get a divorce, your spouse must show your marriage has broken down. They can do this in three ways: by showing you have lived separate and apart for at least one year, by showing you committed adultery, or by showing you treated them with cruelty that makes living together intolerable.
 
  
The notice of claim will state the way your spouse plans to show '''marriage breakdown''', such as a one-year separation. If you don’t dispute the reason, you might not object. On the other hand, if your spouse is claiming adultery or cruelty and those claims aren’t true, you will probably want to object. For information on the legal basis for divorce, see our information on [[Requirements for Divorce and Annulment (No. 120)|the requirements for divorce (no. 120)]].
+
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?
  
====Other claims====
+
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.
In the notice of claim your spouse can also ask for orders about the parenting and support of your children, spousal support, the division of family property, and other matters.
 
  
Carefully consider what your spouse is asking for. If you have children and your spouse is seeking sole custody of the children under the ''Divorce Act'', do you feel that joint custody would be better, or that you should have sole custody? If your spouse is seeking a 50/50 division of family property, do you feel entitled to more than half?
+
===If you don’t agree with the notice of family claim===
 +
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:
  
===If you don’t agree with what the notice of claim seeks===
+
* exercise parenting rights in the best interests of the children,
If you dispute any of the claims in the notice of claim, you must respond. You respond by filing a '''response''' in court and serving the filed response on the claimant.  
+
* 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.  
  
You must respond to the notice of claim '''within 30 days of the date you were served''' with the notice.
+
Once you’ve completed the form, you must file it in the same court in which the notice of family claim was filed.
  
Filing a response makes the proceeding a '''contested divorce'''. A trial may be necessary if you can’t settle the dispute.
+
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.
 +
 
 +
{| class="wikitable"
 +
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
 +
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]].
 +
|}
 +
 
 +
===There are time limits to respond===
 +
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===
 
===If you want to make your own claims===
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. As with the response, you must file and serve the counterclaim on the claimant within 30 days of the date you were served with the notice of claim.
+
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==
 
==Common questions==
  
===When will the divorce be granted?===
+
===What if I don’t respond?===
If the claim for divorce is based on a one-year separation, the 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. No matter what the claim is based on, 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.
+
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?===
 +
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?===
 +
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.
  
Although the divorce order can be made before all the issues are resolved, the court will usually be hesitant to make a divorce order before everything is resolved, without a very good reason for doing so.
+
===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:
  
===What if there are matters needing to be dealt with right away?===
+
* the payment of child support or spousal support
From when a notice of claim is filed, it can take a year or more to have a trial, if a case cannot 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'''. They are made if one or both of you apply to the court. Doing so is an '''interim application'''. Interim orders last until another interim order is made or until the final order ending the case is made at trial or by agreement.
+
* where the children will live  
 +
* who will live in the family home  
  
Interim applications are made by filing a '''notice of application''' (a court form describing the orders you want the court to make) and a supporting '''affidavit''' (a sworn statement describing the basis for the application). The other spouse will have the opportunity to respond. Typically, interim application hearings take anywhere from 15 minutes to three hours or more, depending on the circumstances.
+
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 as interim orders are often influential in the final outcome of the case. See our information on [[Applying for an Interim Order in a Family Law Case in Supreme Court (No. 112)|applying for an interim order (no. 112)]].
+
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"
 
{| class="wikitable"
 
|align="left"|'''Tip'''
 
|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 it will be for each of you.
+
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.
 
|}
 
|}
  
===Can I object to a divorce?===
+
===When will the divorce be granted?===
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 basis for the divorce is proven, whether you want it or not. In some rare situations a judge may refuse a divorce — for example, if adequate arrangements have not been made for the support of any children, or if the divorce means the end of pension benefits a spouse is receiving.
+
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.
  
===What’s a judicial case conference?===
+
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.
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. The conference is held in private and '''without prejudice'''. This means each of you can make settlement proposals at the meeting without being held to your proposal later on, if you don’t reach a settlement.
 
  
A judicial case conference is a great chance to tell the judge and the claimant what you really want. Everything you say at the meeting is confidential. It can’t be repeated outside the meeting room or used later. Speak your mind and explain what orders you’re looking for and why. The judge will not make any decisions, unless you and your spouse both agree. (Note the judge can make orders about procedure, such as when financial documents should be exchanged and the dates for the trial.)
+
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?===
 
===When does the divorce order take effect?===
Divorce orders take effect 31 days after the date the order is made, unless 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.
+
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?===
 
===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''.
+
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'', no matter how long they have been divorced.  
+
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 custody, guardianship, 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''.
+
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''.
  
==Get help==
+
==Who can help==
  
 
===With more information===
 
===With more information===
The wikibook '''''JP Boyd on Family Law''''' includes information on replying to a court proceeding in a family matter.
+
The '''Family Law in BC''' website from Legal Aid BC has a free step-by-step guide for responding to Supreme Court proceedings.
:Web: [http://wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca/index.php/Replying_to_a_Court_Proceeding_in_a_Family_Matter wiki.clicklaw.bc.ca]
+
 
 +
* [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===
 +
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]].
  
 
{{Dial-A-Law_Navbox|type=families}}
 
{{Dial-A-Law_Navbox|type=families}}
 
{{Dial-A-Law Copyright}}
 
{{Dial-A-Law Copyright}}

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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