What is a priority parenting matter and how can I bring an application in BC Provincial Family Court?

When parties separate, there is usually some aspect of contention. What was once a unified decision-making process, now entails both parents bringing their own opinions to the table on what is best for the child. It's inevitable that disagreements will arise.

Usually, to deal with parenting issues, a party can commence a family law matter in Provincial Court by completing an Application About a Family Law Matter, Form 3 and filing it with the appropriate registry. This form covers issues related to parenting time, parenting responsibilities, guardianship, child support and spousal support. But what if you need to make an urgent decision that is only loosely related to these parenting issues and the other party is refusing to cooperate or give their consent? In such a situation, an Application About a Family Law Matter may not be the appropriate form.

It is likely that you are dealing with a "Priority Parenting Matter". BC’s new Provincial Court Family Rules that came into effect on May 17, 2021, created a process to deal with matters that come up on an urgent basis and doesn’t quite fall under the usual parenting issues. Form 15, Application About a Priority Parenting Matter, sets out what types of family law issues would qualify as a priority parenting matter. The list is not exhaustive and can include situations where:

  1. either parent refuses to give their consent for medical treatments for the child
  2. either parent refuses, unreasonably, to grant consent for travelling or applying for a passport for the child
  3. you discover that the other parent is intending to move away with the child or has removed them from BC
  4. the child has been wrongfully removed from Canada

It is very important to determine whether your matter is truly a priority parenting matter and whether it is urgent. This is often where self-represented litigants trip up. In our minds, every decision that involves a child, would constitute priority and urgency. However, the Court won't necessarily agree. A good starting point would be to evaluate whether there will be harm to the child if this is not dealt with immediately or there are other time constraints.

For instance, you've planned a family trip to Disneyland during the school holiday. You booked your tickets months in advance, and everyone is excited to go. The other parent then refuses, without good cause, to give consent for international travel for the child. In this case, the harm would be the child missing out on a family experience that not many get to enjoy. Another example could be where you realize that the other parent has accepted a new job in a different city and intends to take the child with them, without any notice or Court application. Here, the harm would be the child being removed from their city of residence, their school, friends, and you as the other parent.

Once you are satisfied that your matter is indeed a priority parenting issue, you will gather all the relevant information and complete the Application About a Priority Parenting Matter. The form itself sets out what information you would need. If you intend to provide the Court with evidence, such as texts or emails, you will need to complete a Form 45, General Affidavit. In addition, you should determine, based on the situation, whether your Application About a Priority Parenting Matter should be made with or without the mandatory notice period to the other party. If you believe that serious consequences will result in the other party being notified of this application before the Court hearing, you may ask the Court that it be made without notice. To do this, you can complete the Form 11, Application for Case Management Order Without Notice or Attendance, and indicate to the Court why you are requesting no notice be provided to the other party.

Once you have completed the wealth of documents described above, head to your nearest Provincial Court Registry and ask the friendly staff to assist you in filing your application and accompanying documents. At Coach My Case, we recognize that no part of this process is intuitive. If you need coaching on completing these forms or wish to have a legal coach or paralegal help you, call or book online today for your free 20-minute consultation with a lawyer or paralegal.