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Applying for an interim order in a family law case in Supreme Court

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A person involved in a family law case may need to get a temporary court order — known as an interim order — to deal with short-term, important, or urgent issues. Learn the process for making an interim application in Supreme Court.

“My kids live with my spouse, Mikki, most of the time. We set it up that way because of my work schedule. But I changed jobs a few months ago. I want to see the kids more. Mikki doesn’t agree, so I filled out some paperwork and took it to Supreme Court, where our divorce case is. A friend of mine gave Mikki a copy of the court documents. She filed something in reply, and we’re going to court in a month.”

– Elias, Langley, BC

Middle aged man looking subdued

What you should know

Interim orders are temporary court orders made after a case has started but before it ends. They last until another interim order is made. Or, they can stay in place until the case is resolved by final agreement or an order made at trial.

Interim orders can also deal with urgent problems. They can help with:

  • stopping someone from dealing with family property
  • preventing the children from being taken out of town
  • deciding where the children will live
  • deciding if interim support should be paid by one party to help the other with expenses

The BC Supreme Court has rules that set out the process for applying for an interim order.

In a family law case, there are typically two people involved in an application: the person making it (the “applicant”) and the person replying to it (the “respondent”). They are the “parties” in the case.

Let’s assume you’re the applicant. You start the process by filling out a notice of application. Then, you file this form and some supporting documents in court. After that, you need to arrange to serve the documents on the respondent.

If the respondent doesn’t agree with any part of the application, they need to file an application response and supporting documents in court. Then they need to serve those materials on you.

One full day before the hearing, you must file some more material in court.

At the hearing, each party will explain why the order they’re asking for should or shouldn’t be made. The court will consider the evidence and the law and then make a decision. This is recorded in an interim order.

The steps in the application process

The applicant — let’s say it’s you — starts the process by preparing a notice of application. The court has a specific form that must be used, Form F31. This form tells the court what order you want and sets out the court date for the application hearing. It also explains the facts in support of the application and why the court should make that order.

You also prepare an affidavit in Form F30 in support of your application. An affidavit is a legal document in which a person makes statements they swear are true. You may also need to prepare other supporting documents depending on the type of order you’re seeking.

Picking the hearing date

In the notice of application, you must set out the hearing date for the application. Except for urgent applications, the soonest an application can be heard is eight full business days from the date the application materials are sent to the other party. (Business days don’t include weekends and holidays, when court is closed.)

You get to pick the date of the hearing — unless the hearing will take two hours or longer. In that case, you must schedule the hearing date with the court registry staff.

Tip

In picking the hearing date, you should check with the court registry to find out what days the court hears interim applications in family law cases. Some court registries only hear these types of applications on certain days. It’s also a good idea to check dates with the other party or their lawyer. That way you can pick a date you both can attend.

You must make three copies of the materials. Then, file the notice of application and affidavit in the court registry where your family law case is ongoing. There is a court filing fee.

Tip

If you can’t afford the Supreme Court filing fees, you can ask the court to waive them. The Family Law in BC website from Legal Aid BC has a free step-by-step guide for getting an order to waive fees in Supreme Court.

You have to serve the notice of application and supporting documents on the other party. This can be done by ordinary service. This means delivering or leaving the documents with the other party. But it might also be possible to mail, fax, or email the documents. It all depends on what the other party put as their “address for service” in earlier documents.

The documents must be served on the other party at least eight full business days before the date set for the hearing.

The other party, the respondent, has five business days to respond from the time they were served with the notice of application. They can file an application response and a supporting affidavit and then serve you with them. The response says whether they agree or disagree with what you’re asking for.

You can then fill out a responding affidavit. In it, you reply to any new information in the other party's material.

Before the hearing, you need to file an application record in court. This is a binder with copies of all the documents related to the interim application. There are specific requirements set out in the Supreme Court rules for how this material is organized.

As well, you must send the other party a copy of the index (a table of contents) to the application record.

You must complete these two steps (filing the application record and sending the index to the other party) by 4 pm on the day one full business day before the hearing. (This means one full business day must pass in between these steps and the hearing day.)

Tip

The Family Law in BC website from Legal Aid BC has step-by-step guides on preparing and responding to an interim application. The guides include instructions on how to prepare an application record.

The court hearing will take place in Supreme Court chambers. This is a public courtroom where all interim applications set for a particular day are heard. The hearing might be before a judge. Or it might be before a master, a judicial officer who can decide interim applications.

The parties make their submissions

You tell the judge or master what orders you’re asking for. The respondent explains why the court shouldn’t do as you ask.

Neither party testifies during the hearing, nor can either party ask the other questions. The evidence is given to the court through the affidavits in the application record.

Tip

The Supreme Court BC Online Help Guide from Justice Education Society has videos on how to present your own case in chambers

The court’s decision

After looking at the documents and listening to both parties’ submissions, the judge or master makes a decision. They may make all, some, or none of the orders the applicant is asking for.

If either party has a lawyer, the lawyer usually prepares and files the written interim order made by the judge or master. If neither party has a lawyer, the successful party prepares and files the written order in court.

The order is in place from the moment the judge or master gives their decision. The order stays in place until the court makes another interim order on the same subject, or until the overall case is resolved by a trial or a settlement.

Who can help

The Family Law in BC website from Legal Aid BC has a step-by-step guide with instructions for preparing and responding to a Supreme Court interim application.

The wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law, hosted by Courthouse Libraries BC, describes how to make an interim application in Supreme Court. It includes sample timelines for filing and serving the court documents.

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 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.

  • This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
  • Reviewed in March 2020
  • Time to read: 7 minutes

Reviewed for legal accuracy by

Shelagh Kinney, Watson Goepel

Shelagh Kinney, Watson Goepel

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This information from People’s Law School explains in a general way the law that applies in British Columbia, Canada. The information is not intended as legal advice. See our disclaimer.

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On Dial-A-Law

Dial-A-Law has more information on Resolving family disputes in the section on Families + Children.