What Happens if Respondent Does Not Respond Child Custody? - Zukerman Law

BC Child Custody: What Happens When the Respondent Doesn’t Respond?

Filing an application for custody can be a significant step, but what happens if the other parent (the respondent) doesn’t respond? This lack of response can be frustrating and leave you wondering how to proceed.
The good news is that you do have options. This blog post will delve into the potential consequences of an unresponsive respondent in a BC child custody case.
Whether you’re contemplating filing a custody application or are already facing an unresponsive respondent, understanding your legal rights and the potential outcomes can empower you to make informed decisions throughout the process.

BC Child Custody: What Happens If the Respondent Doesn't Respond?

BC Child Custody: What Happens If the Respondent Doesn’t Respond?

Facing a child custody application in British Columbia can be stressful, and understanding the legal process is crucial. One critical step for respondents is filing a timely response. Failing to meet the designated deadlines (30 days in both Provincial and Supreme Court) can have significant consequences:

  • Default Judgments and Missed Opportunities: Both court systems have strict timelines for filing a response. Missing these deadlines can lead to a “default judgment.” In this scenario, the court will likely issue a custody order based solely on the applicant’s evidence and claims. Your perspective and possible counter-arguments wouldn’t be considered, potentially resulting in an order that doesn’t reflect your position or the child’s best interests.
  • Weakened Negotiation Position: A timely response allows you to present your case regarding custody and parenting time formally. It strengthens your position in potential negotiations with the applicant. Without a response, reaching a mutually agreeable custody arrangement outside of court becomes significantly less likely.
  • Informal Agreements at Risk: Even if an informal custody agreement exists between you and the other parent, neglecting to respond to a formal application can put that agreement at risk. A court order supersedes informal arrangements, potentially rendering them unenforceable in the long run.
  • Limited Options Later: Failing to respond initially can restrict your options later in the process. While challenging a default judgment might be possible under specific circumstances, it typically involves additional legal hurdles and can be a more complex process.

Considering the potential consequences of not responding, seeking legal advice is highly recommended. Zukerman Law can guide you through the process, ensuring your response is filed correctly and effectively protects your parental rights during the child custody proceedings.

How Do I Respond to a Family Law Action in the Provincial Court?

How Do I Respond to a Family Law Action in the Provincial Court?

While the official terminology has changed, responding to a family law action in a Provincial Court still follows a straightforward process:

Understanding the Terminology

  • The person who initiates the action is now referred to as the “applicant,” and you, the recipient, are the “respondent.”
  • The formal application document is called a “Form 3 Application About a Family Law Matter.”
  • Your response will be submitted through a “Form 6 Reply to an Application About a Family Law Matter.”

Meeting the Deadline

It’s crucial to respond within 30 days of being served with the Form 3 application is crucial. This 30-day window starts from the date you were served, not the date the application was filed in court.

Filing Your Response

  • You can obtain a Form 6 Reply at any provincial court registry or online. A copy might be included with the Form 3 application you received.
  • File the completed Form 6 reply at the same court registry where the applicant filed their Form 3 application. The box in the upper right corner of the Form 3 will indicate the appropriate registry.
  • There are no filing fees associated with submitting your Form 6 reply.

Responding to the Application

The Form 6 reply allows you to:

  • Indicate agreement or disagreement with specific sections of the applicant’s Form 3.
  • Submit a “counter-application” if you have your claims regarding child support, spousal support, or other family law matters.

Additional Considerations

  • Following your response, the court may schedule a meeting with a family justice counselor.
  • Depending on the court registry, you might be required to attend a “Parenting After Separation” or “Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families” course.
  • If child or spousal support is an issue, you will likely be required to complete and file a Form 4 Financial Statement.

The Applicant’s Response

Once they receive your Form 6 reply, particularly if you’ve filed a counter-application, the applicant has 30 days to respond with a Form 8 “Reply to a Counter Application.” This allows them to agree or disagree with your claims and propose their own orders.

Bottom Line

Navigating child custody matters in BC, especially when facing an unresponsive respondent, can be overwhelming. Understanding the potential consequences of not responding is crucial. Remember, a timely response protects your parental rights, allows you to advocate for your child’s well-being, and strengthens your position for reaching an amicable agreement (if possible). Contact Zukerman Law today for professional legal guidance throughout the BC child custody process.


Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.