How To Get a Divorce in BC With Kids: 9 Steps Explained

Married parents who want to divorce go to Supreme Court.

If they reach an agreement — either on their own or through an alternative dispute resolution method — they request to have it converted to a consent divorce judgment.

If they can't agree, they follow the steps below to have a judge decide what the divorce judgment will say.

Spouses can handle parenting arrangements and child support with their divorce, but many who want decisions quickly go to Provincial Court for those issues. Then, they go to Supreme Court for their divorce and property division.

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Step 1: Open a case

Fill out and file the forms to apply for divorce. You'll hand these in to the Supreme Court nearest you. To officially start your case, an adult who is not involved must serve (formally give) copies of the paperwork to the other parent (called the respondent), who has 30 days to respond.

Step 2: Exchange financial information

Fill out a Financial Statement, then sign it in front of a commissioner for taking affidavits. File it with the court and serve it to the other parent within one month of preparing your Notice of Family Claim.

The other parent must complete this step as well during their response time.

Step 3: Have a judicial case conference

A judicial case conference (JCC) is a private meeting between parents, their lawyers and a Supreme Court judge or master. It lasts about an hour and usually happens within a few months of when you served the respondent.

If you have yet to file your Financial Statement, you must do it at least seven days before the conference.

During the JCC, you'll talk through your family law issues to see if you can agree with the other parent.

If you reach an agreement that the court approves, the judge or master will write consent orders stating the terms.

If not, the judge or master can require you to attend another JCC, or they can set trial dates.

A JCC is required in any contested divorce (i.e., whenever spouses don't agree on all issues). There are circumstances when you may be excused from the JCC.

Unless you're excused, one parent will have to request the JCC. You can request more than one conference.

Step 4: Attend a hearing for interim orders

Some divorcing parents ask for interim orders. Interim orders manage issues like parenting time and child support while you wait for the final judgment.

You usually have to wait until after the JCC to request an interim order. You may be able to make the request earlier if there's an emergency, like the other parent threatening to take your child.

At a hearing for interim orders, the judge decides whether to grant what you've requested. The hearing can happen ex parte (without the other parent) if notifying the parent would put you or the child in danger. You may have a chambers hearing where you'll present evidence through affidavits instead of speaking.

Step 5: Complete discovery

Discovery is the process of gathering information from the other parent to support your case. You'll typically get deadlines for exchanging documents and other information at conferences, and the usual deadlines are set out in the Supreme Court Family Rules.

Examinations are an important part of discovery. During an examination, a parent who's under oath answers questions prepared by the other parent or lawyer. A court reporter is there to transcribe the responses. Examinations can begin within a few weeks of the case starting and should be completed at least one or two months before trial.

Possible: Go to mediation

During mediation, a trained, neutral professional helps parents talk through their differences to see if they can reach an agreement.

In a divorce case, you can obligate a parent to attend mediation. To do this, file a Notice to Mediate at least 90 days after the response to the divorce application is filed and at least 90 days before the trial date (if one has been set).

Then, you have 14 days to choose a mediator; the court will decide on one if you cannot agree. The mediation must occur within 60 days of the mediator's assignment and at least 14 days before the trial date.

A notice is unnecessary if both parents agree to go to mediation and agree on their mediator.

If mediation doesn't work, the court process continues.

Step 6: Schedule your trial

To reserve trial dates, either parent can fill out and file a Notice of Trial, then serve it to the other parent. (If the notice doesn't load, try a different browser.)

Write in the trial dates and times you got at the judicial case conference.

If you didn't receive dates there, find available trial dates online. (They're sorted by how long you expect your trial to take.) In your notice, list a few sets of dates in case your preferred ones fill up.

Step 7: Go to a trial management conference

A trial management conference must happen at least 28 days before the trial. It's meant to ensure that your case is ready for trial and has enough trial time allotted. If the trial may go over the time booked, the judge can schedule new, later dates.

This meeting with the judge is usually held by phone but can happen in person.

Each parent must prepare a trial brief, then file it with the court and serve it to the other parent by the date of the conference. A trial brief provides an overview of your opinions on the unresolved issues and information on how you'll present your case in court, like how much time each witness will need.

Step 8: Go to trial

At a trial, parents or their lawyers make arguments and present evidence to back up their claims. A trial features witness testimony and material evidence like photos, videos and documents.

Once both sides finish presenting their case, the judge makes a decision.

Step 9: Get a final divorce judgment

The judge's decision is called the final divorce judgment.

If your trial didn't address parenting issues, the court won't issue a divorce judgment until you show that you have "reasonable arrangements" for where your child will live, who can make decisions about them and who will pay child support.

The divorce won't be finalized until one year after your separation.

After a judgment is issued, parents have 30 days to appeal.

Possible: Attend a costs assessment hearing

At a costs assessment hearing, a court registrar, after hearing evidence, may order one parent to reimburse some or all of the other parent's court costs.

A costs assessment hearing can happen if:

  • The court orders it.
  • There's a default judgment. (i.e., The court sides with the parent who filed for divorce because the other parent did not respond on time.)
  • The person who started the case withdraws it.
  • Parents agree in a settlement that one parent should have their costs reimbursed.

Most commonly, the court orders the hearing. A parent has to ask for reimbursement in their divorce application or response and be successful at trial for this to happen. Parents could each have to pay the other if the trial judge granted both their requests partially.

The Supreme Court's guide to costs offers more information about requesting the hearing and what happens during it.

Throughout your case

During the court process, you may need to create a parenting time schedule, write a parenting plan, draft keep a log of interactions with the other parent and more.

The Custody X Change app enables you to do all of this in one place.

With customizable parenting calendars, a parenting plan template, a digital journal and more, Custody X Change makes sure you're prepared for whatever arises in your journey to parenting in two households.

Throughout your case, take advantage of our technology to stay on top of all the moving parts.

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