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My partner started a family law court case against me. How do I respond?

If your partner started a family law court case against you and you have to respond to court documents you got from them, you're called the respondent. Your partner started the case and is called the applicant. You're both known as the parties in your family court case.

The family court process follows strict rules. There is a rule about what is needed at every step in a court case. These rules are called the Family Law Rules. Reading them can help you as you fill out court forms and go through the court process.

Rule 10: Answering a case tells you how to answer a family law court case.

This family law court process flowchart explains each step in a family law court case.

You can talk to a lawyer who can help you understand what the law says and what your options are. They can also explain the court process and help you through it.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide "unbundled" or "limited scope" services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer at all, you may be able to find legal help in other places.

Using your address on court forms

If you fear for your safety and don't want your partner to find out where you live, you don't have to put your home address on your court documents when you fill them out. You can put any address where you can pick up mail from. For example, you can put a friend or a family member’s address.

And, you can also ask court staff to serve your partner with your court documents for you.

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Next Steps: 

1. Review your partner's court forms

Your partner has to serve you with a copy of their court forms. The purpose of service is to let you know that your partner has started a court case against you and to give you a chance to respond.

Rule 6: Service of documents says that the first time your partner gives you copies of their court documents, they have to serve you by special service. This means your partner can’t give them to you directly. They have to get a family member or friend over 18 years old to serve you, or they can hire a professional process server.

Once you get your partner's documents, read them carefully. Make sure you understand the orders your partner is asking for.

You will get a:

  • Form 8: Application, which tells you the orders your partner is asking for, and their reasons for those orders.

You may also get:

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2. Fill out your court forms

To respond to your partner's claims, or what they're asking for, you have to fill out Form 10: Answer. The form should be in the documents your partner served. If it isn't, you can get it, and any other family law court form, from the courthouse or online.

Family law court forms are available in French and English.

In Form 10: Answer, you tell the court:

  • which of your partner's orders you agree with, if any, and which ones you don't agree with
  • any other orders you would like the court to make, with facts and reasons for each order you're asking for

For example, you may agree to your partner’s custody and access plans, but disagree with the amount of child support they're asking for. And, you may want to ask for spousal support. Or, if your partner has asked the court for sole custody, you can tell the court why you don't agree with that and why you would like joint custody.

The other forms you fill out depend on what you or your partner are asking for.

Support and dividing property

If you or your partner are asking for child support, spousal support, or to divide property, you must also fill out a financial statement. Rule 13: Financial Disclosure tells you the financial information and other documents you have to give the court.

But, if the amount of child support you're asking for is similar to the amount you would get under the Child Support Guidelines and child support tables, you don't have to fill out a financial statement.

If you're being asked to pay child support, you must almost always fill out a financial statement.

There are 2 financial statement forms. Fill out the financial statement that applies to your situation.

  1. Form 13: Financial Statement (Support Claims): Use this form if you or your partner are asking only for child support, spousal support, or both child support and spousal support. Don't use it if you need to divide property and debts.
  2. Form 13.1: Financial Statement (Property and Support Claims): Use this form if you or your partner are asking to divide property and debts. You may also be asking for support.

You may also have to fill out:

Custody and access

If you or your partner are asking for custody of or access to your children, you need to fill out Form 35.1: Affidavit in Support of a Claim for Custody or Access. In it, you answer some personal questions about your family situation and tell the court about your suggested parenting plan.

Divorce

If you or your partner are asking for a divorce, the forms you fill out depend on whether you're:

3. Give your forms to your partner

You have 30 days to fill out, serve, and file your Form 10: Answer and other court forms. You can serve your partner by regular service or special service.

There is a guide on how to serve documents.

Whoever serves the documents on your partner must fill out Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. In it, they say when, where, and how they served your partner. The form proves that your partner got a copy of your documents.

You can ask the court for more time to fill out your Answer by bringing a regular motion. You should speak to the court clerk or duty counsel before the 30 days are over to find out how to do this.

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4. File your forms at court

After you serve your partner with your documents, you must go to the courthouse to file them and Form 6B: Affidavit of Service. This means you put them in your court file. You do this at the court counter, with the help of the court clerk.

There is a guide on how to file documents.

Continuing record

Your partner will have started a court file, which is called the continuing record. The continuing record is the court file that has all the important documents in your case.

Rule 9: Continuing record says that you must file every document in your case in a continuing record so the judge can find it easily when it’s needed.

The continuing record has 2 parts:

  • The endorsement volume has all the endorsements and court orders the judge made in your case. An endorsement is the written directions a judge gives you and your partner that says what you must do or not do.
  • The documents volume has most of the documents you and your partner file in your case. For example, your Applications, Answers, Replies, affidavits of service, financial statements, motions, and affidavits.

Documents are added to the continuing record after they have been served on the other person.

When you add a document to the continuing record, you also have to update the table of contents by listing each document you’re filing.

Court staff can help you figure out where each document goes in the continuing record.

Make sure you keep a copy of every document you and your partner fill out. This allows you to keep track of your case yourself. You won't have to go to the court to ask the court clerk to get your file if you need to check something.

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5. Get your partner's reply

Your partner has 10 days to serve and file a reply to anything in your Form 10: Answer that is a new issue or claim by filling out Form 10A: Reply.

For example, if you said that your partner has a drug problem, and they didn't say anything about this in their Form 8: Application, they can file a Reply that addresses that issue. The Reply should not contain any new issues.

You don't get a chance to respond to your partner's reply.

Your partner doesn't reply

Your partner doesn't have to reply to your Form 10: Answer. If they don't, it means they don't agree with what you've said in your Answer. You continue with your family law court case.

You and your partner agree on some or all of the claims

You can stop your court case and try to agree your issues outside court. For example, you can make a separation agreement, get a consent order, or make an offer to settle.

You and your partner don't agree

You continue with your family law court case.

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Reviewed: 
September, 2015

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