All about court orders
A final order is a court order that's intended to apply to both parties for the foreseeable future. Final family orders can deal with all of your family law issues, including:
- child support,
- spousal support,
- parenting, and
- the division of property and debt.
A court can make a final order:
- at the end of a trial (including a summary trial),
- whenever both spouses agree to an order (called a consent order), or
- when the spouses apply for an undefended divorce.
Here are a few things that might happen before a judge makes a final order. All of these are aimed to help you resolve as much of your case as possible without a formal court hearing:
- Making sure you've provided all the right information: The law requires you and your spouse to provide each other with "full and true information" so you can resolve your family law dispute. This rule applies whether you're going to court or not. If you are going to court, the court rules set out what specific information you must provide beforehand. Before a trial, a judge or master will usually make sure all the necessary information has been shared. If you refuse to provide this information, you may be penalized. And if, after an order is made, it's discovered that you didn't share all the necessary information, the order can be overturned.
- A meeting with a child support officer: The court might send you to see a child support officer (or you can choose to see one yourself) to help you figure out how much child support should be paid in your case.
- A meeting with a family justice counsellor: In some Provincial Court locations, you'll be required to meet with a family justice counsellor before you go to court (or you can choose to see one yourself). Family justice counsellors are certified mediators. They can mediate, explore settlement options with you, refer you to other services, and give you legal information.
- A Parenting After Separation course: In most Provincial Court locations, you'll be required to attend a Parenting After Separation course. This is a three-hour workshop to help parents deal with separation and any conflict that may result, and ensure that they consider their children's best interests when making decisions. The course is available online, and the manual for this workshop (also available online) is available in English, French, Chinese, and Punjabi. Even if you don't have to go (for example, if your case is in Supreme Court), consider attending the course anyway.
- A meeting with a judge or master: If you want to get an order that your spouse doesn't agree with, you might have to meet with a judge before you can have a court hearing. In Supreme Court, you must have a Judicial Case Conference before you apply for most types of orders. In Provincial Court, judges will often order a Family Case Conference before hearing an application for an order. You can also apply for a case conference at any time. The judge or master will explore options for settling your case and can make many types of orders. He or she may order you to mediation or other services, help you prepare your case for a court hearing (for example, give you a list of information you must provide), or make an order that you both agree to (including interim and even final orders).
See our step-by-step guides on applying for a final order: How to get a final family order if you agree and How to get a final family order if you can't agree.
Sometimes you may wish to have your final order changed. If you know for sure that you and your spouse wouldn't agree on the change, you'll have to request the change with the court, and there are only certain changes they will allow. There are specific tests the court will use to decide whether or not an order should be changed. (See our fact sheet When can you change a final order? for charts that outline all of these tests.) Consider whether these apply to your situation before going to the trouble and expense of a court application.
In most cases, you apply to the court that made the original order. For our step-by-step guides, see
- how to change an order in Supreme Court if you both agree, or
- how to change an order if you and your spouse can't agree.
Sometimes you may wish to dispute the final court order that was made; this is called an appeal. For more information, see our fact sheet Can you appeal an order?
It can take a long time to get a final order from the court. Many people need a temporary solution while they work on an agreement or wait for a court date. To fill the gap, you can apply in Provincial Court or Supreme Court for interim orders. These temporary orders set out a short-term arrangement while you work on longer-term solutions.
They usually don't have an expiry date. They last until you come to an agreement or go to trial, whether that's six months or six years later. Note that you can apply to change an interim order (see below).
Interim family orders deal with the same issues that final family orders do — including support, guardianship, parental responsibilities, parenting time, and contact. Interim orders also deal with procedural matters. For example, the court might order that your spouse give you financial information by a certain date.
Interim orders are based on less evidence and arguments than final orders made at trial.
In Supreme Court, a judge or master makes interim orders after looking at written evidence presented in sworn affidavits and written arguments based on the affidavits. In Provincial Court, a judge often makes interim orders based on evidence and arguments presented verbally. In some cases, affidavits are used. A judge (or in Supreme Court, a master) may also make an interim order after a Family Case Conference or Judicial Case Conference.
In Provincial Court, you first start your case by filling out an Application to Obtain an Order (Form 1). You can then get an interim order by:
- attending a Family Case Conference, or
- applying for an interim order by filing a Notice of Motion (Form 16).
In Supreme Court, the application for an interim order is often called a Chambers application. For more information on this process, see our guides on how to get an interim order in Supreme Court when you can't agree or when you can agree and our fact sheet What happens in a Supreme Court Chambers hearing? If you can't agree with your spouse about the interim order, you'll have to attend a Judicial Case Conference (JCC) before you can apply for the order. If you come to an agreement with your spouse during a JCC, the judge can make an interim order and you won't have to apply for one.
You can also read Supreme Court Family Rule 10-6.
If you have an interim order and now you and your spouse have reached an agreement, you can ask the judge to make your order final. The final order can be the same as the interim order or it can be different.
This is called a consent order. For a step-by-step guide on how to apply for consent orders, see How to get a final family order if you agree.
If you're unhappy with an interim order, usually the next step is to reach an agreement with your spouse or get to trial as quickly as possible. But if you can't reach an agreement or you can't wait for trial, you can apply to the court to change the interim order.
The court will consider changing an interim order only if:
- there has been a change in circumstances since the order was made, or
- important evidence is now available that wasn't available when the interim order was made.
The court also has to consider the following:
- How long have you had the order?
- Did you intend for the interim order to be a temporary solution and to not affect your ability to get a different outcome later on?
- Is a trial scheduled?
- Would there be any negative effects on a spouse or a child if the order isn't changed?
If you find yourself in this situation, it's best to get legal advice before deciding what to do.
For information on how to change an order, see our step-by-step guides How to change an order if you and your spouse can't agree and How to change an order in Supreme Court if you both agree.
Sometimes you may wish to dispute the interim court order that was made; this is called an appeal. For more information, see our fact sheet Can you appeal an order?
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