We’ve added a question to Clicklaw that gets asked quite often by people who visit our Courthouse Libraries – How can I get my Certificate of Divorce? Does it make my divorce official? What forms do I need?
Our new Common Question clarifies that you do not need a certificate to make your divorce legal, but that it can be useful in some cases.
gives 3 options for how you can apply for it: (1) at a Supreme Court Registry in person – if you have a lawyer, or (2) in person if you are doing it by yourself, and (3) via snail mail.
We also include tips on finding your court file number, and getting a copy of your divorce order.
What is a Clicklaw Wikibook?
Clicklaw Wikibooks is Clicklaw’s companion site – it provides plain language legal information and is a platform for lawyers and legal organizations in BC to publish and update legal information in a range of different digital and physical formats by editing a single source. I like to call it a curated wiki of BC law.
In addition to reading the Wikibooks online, you can find several of them in print at your local public library, through the LawMatters program. JP Boyd is a well-known family law expert and the founding author of this post’s featured Clicklaw Wikibook, which is updated by BC lawyers.
Read the Legal Services Society (LSS) resource, “All about court orders” for more information about what kinds of court orders you can get, as well as options to pursue before the court makes a final order, to try and resolve as much of your case as possible without a formal court hearing.
Can I get a court order without a lawyer?
If you and the other party agree about what you want the court to order, you can apply for what’s called a “consent order” and may be able to get it without attending court.
If you have a lawyer, your lawyer will have the order typed and submit it to the Court. If you don’t have a lawyer, the other party’s lawyer will do this, but you should see a lawyer yourself to review the proposed order before you sign a document showing you consent to the order.
Click here to see where to find free or low cost legal advice on family law matters.
If you don’t have a lawyer, another direct way to get a consent order is to meet with a Family Justice Counsellor (FJC) who can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court. FJCs work at Family Justice Centres located across BC; they provide free services for people of modest means. FJCs are specially trained to support families to reach agreement on issues of guardianship, parenting arrangements (including parental responsibilities and parenting time), contact and support. They can help you obtain or change an order in Family Court; including preparing the consent order and submitting it to the Court for you. They can also provide information and referrals, short-term counselling, mediation, help with various court forms, and more. In some communities, couples who separate must meet with a FJC before they are given a date to appear in court.
“How to get a final family order in Provincial Court” explains what to do once you draft a consent order. If a judge approves your order, you won’t have to appear in a court room. However, if there are problems in the wording you choose or the information you provide, you may have to attend court to give the judge more information. This is why it’s so helpful to have a FJC or lawyer prepare and submit a consent order for you.
If, however, you and the other party ultimately don’t agree, you’ll go to court and the judge will make an order:
If both parties agree by the time you get to court you can ask the judge to make a consent order on the day of your first court appearance.
When you go to court, you can ask for a case conference where you and the other party will meet with a judge to discuss the issues. If you agree during the case conference, the judge can make a consent order there.
This does not mean that the judge types up the order that is filed at the registry. The Rules require the successful party’s lawyer to do that.
However, if you are successful and do not have a lawyer, the court clerk (registry staff) prepares the order unless the judge orders otherwise. For example, if the unsuccessful party has a lawyer, the judge may ask that lawyer to draft the order.
If the other party’s lawyer will be preparing an order, ask the judge to permit you to approve its wording before the lawyer sends it to the Court.
Whether an order is submitted by a lawyer or prepared by the court registry, it will be checked by court staff and/or the judge to ensure it reflects what the judge said in court.
How should the court order be drafted, and why?
The order should clearly and precisely reflect the court’s decision. It should state who does what, to whom, when, and in some cases where or for how long.
It should be understandable even by someone who is unfamiliar with the case. This is because the court’s orders may need to be enforced by people who were not involved in the case.
Poor Example of a term in an order:
John Smith will pay child support of $800 a month.
There would be problems enforcing this order if John did not pay. It doesn’t say who he must pay or when, among other details missing.
Better Example of a term in an order:
John Smith will pay to Jane Smith the sum of $800 per month for the support of the children, May Smith born June 1, 2011 and Lee Smith born July 3, 2012, commencing on October 1st 2015 and continuing on the first day of each and every month thereafter, for as long as the children are eligible for support under the Family Law Act or until further Court order.
This wording from the “Picklist” on the Provincial Court website makes it clear who does what to whom, when, when the obligation starts, and when it ends. Use the standard wording of Family Law Act terms provided in the BC Provincial Court Picklists whenever possible; this also helps with faster processing at the Registry: Click here for the Picklist Word Doc.
If a lawyer is involved, they will use their notes of what the judge said to draft the order. If the judge gives written reasons for judgment after trial, the order will be prepared based on these written reasons – you can also order clerk’s notes or a transcript of the proceeding, although this can take some time and is expensive.