Securing a support order is a crucial step for many individuals facing the challenges of divorce or separation. Whether child support or spousal support, these orders provide financial stability and ensure the well-being of those involved. This blog post will guide you through the essential steps and considerations when obtaining a support order in British Columbia.

Understanding Support Orders

Support orders are legal documents issued by the court stipulating one party’s financial responsibilities towards another. They often involve child support or spousal support. Considering both parties ‘ financial capacities and needs, these orders are designed to be fair and just.

Spousal Support

Spousal support is money paid by one spouse to another after separation, usually paid through an agreement or under a court order. You must prove entitlement to support before a support order will be granted.

Child Support

Upon separation, child support is paid from one parent to the other to provide financial assistance to support the children and to cover expenses related to the children. Legally, parents are obligated to provide financial support for their children, even if they are not actively involved in the child’s life.

Provincial and Federal Family Law Legislation

The two main pieces of legislation that apply are the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act. In many cases, both of these Acts will apply. You will need to consider what Act to apply under and in which court to bring your proceeding. 

  1. Family Law Act (Provincial Law):
    1. Applies to married couples;
    1. Applies to individuals who cohabited in a marriage-like relationship for two years or more or had a child together.
    1. Application under this Act must be made within two years after obtaining a divorce or separation under the Family Law Act.
  2. Divorce Act (Federal Law):
    1. Only applicable to people who are or were married;
    1. No specific time limit is imposed under the Divorce Act for applying for support.

Determining the Suitable Court:

  1. BC Provincial Court
    1. Married spouses under the Family Law Act; and
    1. Unmarried spouses under the Family Law Act.
  2. BC Supreme Court
    1. Married spouses under the Divorce Act or the Family Law Act; and
    1. Unmarried spouses under the Family Law Act.

Each court has specific documents and procedures. The process starts out the same, but notice the difference in forms used to begin the applications. Once the documents have been filed, follow the appropriate next steps, which depend on whether you and the other party agree on the issues.

BC Provincial Court

  1. Fill out the forms:
    1. If you Agree:
      1. Application for a Family Law Matter Consent Order (Form 17);
      1. Consent Order (Form 18);
      1. Financial Statement (Form 4); and
      1. Guardianship Affidavit (Form 5) (if children are involved)
    1. If you Disagree:
      1. Application About a Family Matter (Form 3);
      1. Financial Statement (Form 4);
      1. Any documents that relate to the court forms.
  2. Swear the financial statement and guardianship affidavit.
  3. Make copies of the documents.
  4. File the documents:
    1. At the court registry that is:
      1. where an existing case between you is filed;
      1. closest to where your child lives most of the time, if the case involves a child; or
      1. closest to where you live if the case doesn’t involve a child.
    1. There is no filing fee in Provincial Court registry.

If you Agree:

  • A judge reviews the filed documents:
    • they may approve and sign the order if they are satisfied that your order is appropriate and that you and the other person agree; or
    • registry staff will contact you to tell you to appear before a judge and ask for the order.
  • Appear at the registry if needed:
    • the judge will hear from you to explain your application.

If you Disagree:

  • Give the documents to the other party:
    • ensure you follow the rules regarding service.
  • Wait for the Reply and Counter Application:
    • the other party has 30 days to file a Reply and a Counter Application.
  • File a Reply to the Counter Application; and
  • Prepare for and attend the Family Management Conference:
    • if you resolve your issues, the judge will make an order and adjourn your case; or
    • if you don’t resolve all issues, the judge may send you to another Family Management Conference, a Family Settlement Conference, a hearing, or a trial.

BC Supreme Court

            If you Agree:

  1. File a Notice of Joint Family Claim (Form F1):
    1. When both parties have mutually agreed on all aspects related to their separation or divorce, they have the option to file a Notice of Joint Family Claim, which signifies to the court that both parties are collectively initiating the family law case and are in agreement on all pertinent issues.
    1. Advantages:
      1. No need for serving documents on the other party.
    1. Disadvantages:
      1. Must be absolutely certain about the agreement. Deviating from the agreed terms later on would necessitate filing extensive additional paperwork.

If you Disagree:

  1. Fill out a Notice of Family Claim (Form F3)
  2. Fill out the schedules that apply to you:
    1. Schedule 1 – Divorce
    1. Schedule 2 – Children
    1. Schedule 3 – Spousal Support
    1. Schedule 4 – Property
    1. Schedule 5 – Other
  3. Complete and affirm a Financial Statement (Form F8)
  4. File the documents at any Supreme Court registry;
    1. There is a $200 filing fee;
    1. Make copies for yourself, the other party, the court, and the process server;
  5. Serve the documents on the other person
    1. Ensure you follow the rules about service.
  6. Wait for a response:
    1. The other party has 30 days to respond by filing and serving a Response to Family Claim (Form F4).
    1. If you’ve asked for child or spousal support, each party must also file and serve a Financial Statement (Form F8).
  7. Attend a Judicial Case Conference:
    1. This informal conference is held before a judge or master with the purpose of assessing the matters in dispute between the involved parties. They explore various methods to settle the legal action.
    1. The judge or master will make a consent order where there are areas of agreement.
    1. Unresolved issues will be left for further negotiation or possibly litigation.

While the court case is ongoing, either spouse may ask the court for an interim order for spousal or child support. This is a temporary order meant to last until the case is settled or goes to trial.

Key Takeaways on Support Orders in British Columbia

Obtaining a support order in British Columbia demands careful consideration, legal expertise, and often emotional resilience. You can navigate this process more effectively by understanding your rights, seeking professional legal advice, and being open to negotiation. Remember, support orders are designed to provide stability and fairness, ensuring that the financial aspects of separation or divorce are addressed, allowing all parties to move forward with their lives.

Contact Meridian Law Group in Vancouver for Trusted Legal Advice on Support Orders

The skilled team of family lawyers at Meridian Law Group in Vancouver regularly assist clients involved in a variety of family law matters. For more information regarding support orders or other family law concerns, contact Meridian Law Group at (604) 687-2277 or contact us online.