Family law protection orders


What is a protection order?

You can apply for a family law protection order in family court (Provincial or Supreme Court) when there is a risk of family violence.

You can apply for protection from a "family member," which means:

  • someone you are or were married to,
  • someone you live or lived with in a marriage-like relationship for any length of time,
  • your child's parent or legal guardian,
  • a relative of any of the people above who lives with them,
  • a relative of yours who lives with you, and
  • your own child.

The protection order can be to protect you or any other family member who is at risk of family violence.

"Family violence" is violence by a family member that includes:

  • abusing you or a family member physically, sexually, emotionally, or psychologically;
  • following or stalking you;
  • damaging your property; and/or
  • exposing your child to family violence.

A protection order can tell the person named in the order:

  • not to contact you, your children, or other family members who may be at risk of abuse;
  • to stay away from your home, your work, school, or other places where you, your children, or other family members spend time;
  • not to follow you, your children, or other family members;
  • not to have a weapon; and/or
  • that the police can go with you to your home while you get your personal belongings, or make the person named in the order leave the family home.

Before you get a protection order

It is important to take advantage of the community support and legal advice available before you apply for a protection order. There are workers who can help you assess risk and make a safety plan. You can get legal advice about whether a protection order is the best choice for you. See Who can help.

Getting a protection order

Usually you apply for a protection order in BC Provincial Court. It is free to apply in BC Provincial Court. You can also apply in Supreme Court. The fee in Supreme Court is $80 if you have started a case but $200 if you haven't started a case. You can apply to have the fee waived if you would find it difficult to pay.

You can apply for a protection order on its own, or at the same time as you apply for other family court orders. The protection order can only include orders about safety. Other orders need to be put in a separate order.

If you're before the judge for another reason and the judge decides you need a protection order, the judge can make the order even if you didn't apply ahead of time.

Do I have to let the person know I am applying for a protection order?

You don't have to give notice when you apply if the risk to your safety might increase if you did so.

If the protection order is made, you must arrange to have someone serve a copy of the order on the person.

He or she can then go to court and ask that the order be cancelled or changed. If they can show that there is no risk of family violence, the order will be set aside.

What do I do with the order?

Once you have your protection order, keep a copy of the protection order with you at all times. You can show it to the police if your partner doesn't follow one of the conditions, or for another reason.

It's also important to keep a certified copy of the Affidavit of Service with you at all times so you can prove that the person named in the order was properly served and knows about it. The police may ask for this proof.

How long does a protection order last?

A protection order ends after one year unless the judge puts another date in the order. A protection order made in BC usually applies only in BC (not the rest of Canada).

What happens if my protection order is in conflict with another court order?

Your protection order must be obeyed before all other orders. For example, you may have a parenting order that is different from the protection order. The protection order must be obeyed first, and the parenting order goes on hold until the protection order ends.

What if the person doesn't obey the protection order?

If the person breaches the protection order (by either of you contacting each other), the police can arrest and charge him or her with a criminal offence. The protection order explains the arrest powers of the police.

When you get a protection order, it is registered with the Protection Order Registry, a confidential computer database. This way, the police can get up-to-date information about the order 24 hours a day. You can make sure your order is registered in the database by calling VictimLink BC (toll-free) at 1-800-563-0808, any time.

What if I want to change the protection order?

If you want to contact the person named in the order, you must apply to court to change or cancel the protection order.

Before you make changes to the protection order, talk with a victim service worker or a lawyer. You will want to understand how the changes may affect your and/or your children's safety.

What is the Protection Order Registry?

In BC, the central Protection Order Registry has records of protection orders made by BC courts. Once your protection order is registered, the police can quickly find out about the conditions in your protection order if you have to call them. To make sure your order is registered and correct, call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 (no charge, 24 hours a day, seven days a week).

Can I get legal help to apply for a protection order?

If you apply for a family law protection order, it's best to have a family law lawyer help you go to court and advise you about other options for protection. You can hire a lawyer or talk to Legal Aid to find out if you can get a free lawyer.

Call Legal Aid

Greater Vancouver: 604-408-2172
Elsewhere in BC: 1-866-577-2525 (call no charge)
Or find the phone number of the legal aid office nearest you on the Legal Aid website.

Contact a free legal advice clinic

If you can't afford a lawyer, and don't qualify for legal aid, you can call a free (pro bono) legal advice clinic.

Hire a lawyer

If you want to hire a lawyer but don't have your own, you can call the Lawyer Referral Service. They'll give you the name and number of a lawyer in your community. You can have a 30-minute consultation with this lawyer for $25 plus taxes.

Greater Vancouver: 604-687-3221
Elsewhere in BC: 1-800-663-1919 (call no charge)

For more information, see the booklets For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders and Surviving Relationship Violence and Abuse, and the fact sheet Live Safe — End Abuse: Protection Orders. See also the self-help guide How to apply for a family law protection order.

See also WorkSafe BC for resources about personal safety in the workplace.

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