When spouses separate issues immediately arise regarding where the children will reside and how ongoing family expenses will be paid. Ultimately these issues will be resolved either by agreement between the spouses or by court order. If an agreement cannot be reached there can be a considerable time delay before a court order can be obtained which leaves the family in a very difficult situation. No one is certain where the children will live and who will pay the family’s expenses.


The process to obtain a court order in the Supreme Court of British Columbia is as follows:


  • The original marriage certificate must be obtained.
  • A Notice of Family Claim must be prepared and signed.
  • The Notice of Family Claim is filed with the Supreme Court of B.C. and must then be served on the other spouse.
  • Once service is effected the spouse has 30 days to file a Response to the Family Claim and possibly to file a Counterclaim.
  • If a Counterclaim is filed the first spouse must file a Response to the Counterclaim and serve it on the second spouse.
  • Once these pleadings have been filed a court application cannot be brought until both spouses and their lawyers have attended a Judicial Case Conference (JCC) which is an informal meeting with a judge where the judge acts as a mediator to try to resolve the issues. Typically it takes approximately six to eight weeks to obtain a date for a JCC.
  • If there are still unresolved issued a court application can be filed and there must be eight business days notice.


This process can take three months or more and in the interim the family can be left in a very difficult position.


Court applications can be brought prior to the JCC but only in exceptional circumstances.


Deborah A. Todd
Deborah A. Todd