Parenting & Contact Orders in British Columbia

You don't have to get a parenting order from the court if you reach an agreement with the other parent. If you file your agreement with the court, it will be enforceable like an order. But even filing the agreement is optional.

To officially end a marriage, you must get a divorce judgment from the court. It's up to you whether this includes a parenting order. Many parents get an order or reach an agreement about parenting during the year that they must be separated before filing for divorce.

Anyone who is close to the child but is not the child's guardian can ask for a contact order that would grant them visitation rights.

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Urgent parenting orders

You may need an urgent order if, for example, the other parent removes the child from your home or refuses to give permission for a medical treatment the child needs quickly. You might also get one to protect yourself or your child from the other parent.

Urgent parenting orders last until set aside by the court or until parents agree to set them aside with court approval.

You can request an urgent order in Provincial or Supreme court before, while, or after you file for child custody. Here's how to request one in Provincial Court, which is most common:

You'll have a hearing if the court finds your situation urgent. Usually, both parents attend to tell their side of things, then the judge makes the order. The court may allow the hearing to happen without the other parent there (ex parte) if notifying them would put you or your child in danger.

To ask for an ex parte hearing, fill out an Application for a Case Management Order Without Notice in addition to your other application.

If the judge approves, you'll get a date for an ex parte hearing or have one the day you turn in your forms.

On the other hand, if the judge agrees that your matter is urgent but feels the other parent should attend the hearing, they'll give you a date for an urgent (but not ex parte) hearing. You'll need to serve the other parent at least seven days before the hearing.

You don't need to apply for a case management order or serve the other parent if you request a protection order. The judge will automatically decide whether the hearing should happen ex parte.

Interim parenting orders

Interim parenting orders give you temporary arrangements for issues in your case that you want an early ruling on. They often cover guardianship, parenting time and child support.

In Supreme Court, the paperwork depends on whether you agree on interim orders or you disagree on interim orders. If you can't agree on terms during your judicial case conference, you'll have a hearing for interim orders.

In Provincial Court, you'll use the Application about a Priority Parenting Matter to request an interim order. If you disagree on the terms of the order, you'll present evidence in court at an interim orders hearing.

Since interim orders don't expire until there's a final order, some parents choose to follow them instead of getting a final order at trial. They exit the court process once they have interim orders and follow them for years, making modifications when necessary.

Note that there's no such thing as an interim divorce judgment. You need a final order to get divorced.

Final parenting orders

Final parenting orders lay out long-term parenting arrangements — from parenting time to parental responsibilities. If requested, the order may also designate who has guardianship of a child and include a parenting plan, as well as child support.

The terms of the final order are decided by a judge after a trial or by parents when they negotiate an agreement. A final order comprised of agreed-upon terms is called a consent order.

If you're divorcing, you'll get a divorce judgment. It will detail spousal support, property division and other divorce matters. It will also detail parenting arrangements and child support, unless you already handled those issues in Provincial Court or opt to create a parenting agreement.

Contact orders

If you're related to or close to a child you don't have guardianship of, you can ask for a contact order, which would allow you regular visits. These orders are rare since the person seeking visitation is often able to reach an agreement with the child's guardian.

Interim versions of contact orders are possible, but final versions are most common.

Modifying an order

You can ask the court to change interim and final orders. Any changes must be made or approved by the court.

You may request a modification if:

  • There's been a significant change for either parent or the child.
  • You have new evidence that wasn't available when the order was made.
  • The child's needs change.

The process depends on your court and whether you agree:

Enforcing a parenting or contact order

You may have to ask the court to enforce your court order if the other parent frequently disobeys it. There are different steps to enforcing an order made in Provincial Court and enforcing an order made in Supreme Court.

Following court orders correctly

When a court issues orders, you must follow them. If you don't, you can be brought back to court, fined and more.

But orders are complicated, especially for parenting time. When exactly does "Week 2" begin this month? Which day marks the middle of summer break?

Use Custody X Change to plug your order into a calendar you can edit, share and print so you'll never have to wonder whether you're following the order correctly.

With the Custody X Change online app, you can combine schedules for the school year, summer break and holidays into one calendar.

You can even track how well court orders are being followed with our parenting time tracker and parenting journal.

Custody X Change has all the tools you need to set your new parenting arrangement up for success.

Visualize your schedule. Get a written parenting plan. Calculate your parenting time.

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