Navigating family law matters can be a complex and emotional journey. When parties to a separation disagree on an issue, temporary or short-term orders, also known as interim orders, are useful for establishing some basic ground rules between the parties until a final order is in place.

What is an Interim Order?

Interim orders are temporary legal decisions made by a judge to address specific issues between the parties. They are made after a family law court proceeding has commenced but before the court proceeding has ended with a trial or a settlement. In Provincial Court, this typically means that an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 3) is filed, as well as the Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter (Form 6).

Once legal proceedings have commenced, it is often not only beneficial but essential to obtain interim orders that address urgent and important matters such as:

1.     What should the parenting schedule look like?

2.     How will parents make decisions for their children?

3.     Should child or spousal support be paid? If so, how much and by whom?

4.     Is a protection order necessary?

The family management conference is usually the first opportunity to obtain interim orders. The Provincial Court Family Rules encourages parties to resolve their issues in these initial conferences. When interim matters are not resolved at a family management conference, the judge will usually direct the parties to set a hearing so that a judge can resolve the dispute.

Can You Change an Interim Order?

There are many reasons someone may wish to change an interim order. Has new information come to light? Have the circumstances changed? Does the current interim order no longer work for you or your child’s life?

Common reasons to apply to change an interim order include:

1.     Changed Circumstances: has there been a significant change since the original order was made? Examples may include:

a.     Job loss or change in employment status;

b.     A substantial increase or decrease in income;

c.     Health issues affecting a party’s ability to comply with an interim order; or

d.     A change in the child’s circumstances or needs.

2.     Safety concerns: concerns about the safety or well-being of a party or the child, where a modification of the interim order is necessary to address these concerns.

3.     Non-Compliance: is one party not complying with an existing interim order?

4.     Child’s Best Interests: has it become evident that the interim order is no longer in the child’s best interests?

5.     Resolution of Disputes/Consent of Parties: have parties negotiated or come to an agreement to modify the terms of an interim order?

The beneficial part about interim orders is that they are not final and can be modified under certain circumstances. A Request for Scheduling (Form 39) can be used to apply to change, suspend, or cancel an existing interim order. It can also be used if you have attended a family management conference and now want to apply for an interim order. A Request for Scheduling needs to be completed if you need a court appearance to be scheduled and less than a year has passed from the date the parties took any steps under the rules of the interim order. If more than a year has passed, you must instead file a Notice of Intention to Proceed (Form 2) and attend a family management conference to determine the next step in your case.

When Will a Court Change, Suspend or Terminate an Interim Order?

On an application by a party, the court may change, suspend, or terminate an interim order under the Family Law Act if they are satisfied that at least one of the following exist:

1.     A change in circumstance has occurred since the interim order was made; or

2.     New substantial evidence has emerged that was not available at the time the interim order was made.

Furthermore, when deciding whether to allow or decline the application, the court must take into consideration all of the following:

1.     The change in circumstance or the evidence, or both;

2.     The length of time that has passed since the interim order was made;

3.     Whether the interim order was made for the purpose of having a temporary arrangement in place, with the intention that the arrangement:

a.     Would not adversely affect the position of either party during negotiations, during family dispute resolution, or at trial; and

b.     Would not necessarily reflect the final arrangement between the parties;

4.     Whether a trial has been scheduled; and

5.     Any potential adverse effect on a party or child of a party by either making or declining to make a change, suspension, or termination of an interim order.

It is important to note that any application to change an interim order in a British Columbia Provincial Court should be well-documented and supported by evidence, especially based on changed circumstances or safety concerns. Additionally, it is crucial to prioritize the best interests of the child when seeking changes to decision-making responsibility (custody) or parenting time (access) arrangements. Consulting with an experienced family lawyer is advisable to navigate the legal process effectively and increase the likelihood of a successful modification.

Contact the Family Lawyers at Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Trusted Legal Advice on Interim Orders and Family Disputes

At Meridian Law Group, our experienced family lawyers frequently advise clients on a variety of family law matters, including support issues, parenting disputes, and property division. When it comes to resolving family law matters, our team will provide you with comprehensive and practical legal advice so help you make informed decisions following a separation or divorce. For more information regarding interim orders or other family law concerns, contact Meridian Law Group at (604) 687-2277 or contact us online.