If your partner started a court case against you and you have to respond to court documents that 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.
Your partner must follow Rule 6: Service of documents when they give you a copy of their documents to let you know they have started a case against you. This is called serving documents. Once you get your partner’s documents you get a chance to respond and tell your side of the story.
The rule says that the first time your partner gives you copies of their court documents, they have to serve you by special service, but 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.
Your partner’s forms
The court documents you get from your partner depend on what they are asking for. They can include:
- Form 8: Application, which tells you the orders your partner is asking for, and their reasons for those orders.
- Form 35.1: Affidavit (decision-making responsibility, parenting time, contact), if you’re asking for decision-making responsibility or parenting time and if you haven’t already filed this form with the court. These used to be called custody or access. This has your partner’s version of your family situation before you separated and your partner’s suggested parenting plan for after you separate.
- Form 13: Financial Statement or Form 13.1: Financial Statement, which has information on your partner's finances. You get this form only if your partner is asking for child support, spousal support, or to divide property.
- Form 13A: Certificate of Financial Disclosure, where your partner lists all the documents that support what they said in their financial statement.
- Form 8.0.1: Automatic Order, which tells you what you must do next. For example, it says that you must:
- Attend a Mandatory Information Program (MIP) session within 45 days, if you have not already done so.
- Serve and file a financial statement with supporting documents, if there are support issues.
If you don't do these things before your case conference, the judge might say you "have not complied". This means you did not follow the order. You may have to pay your partner's legal costs.
Forms you fill out
You will also get a number of blank forms which you need to fill out. These are:
- Form 10: Answer, where you tell the court: – if you agree or disagree with the orders your partner is asking for, and – about anything you want to ask for.
- Form 35.1: Affidavit (decision-making responsibility, parenting time, contact), if you, or your partner, are asking for decision-making responsibility or parenting time. These used to be called custody or access. You have to answer some personal questions about your family situation before you separated and suggest a parenting plan for after you separate.
- Form 13: Financial Statement or Form 13.1 Financial Statement, if you, or your partner, are asking for support or to divide property. This gives the court information about your finances such as your income, living expenses, and assets and debts.
- Form 13A: Certificate of Financial Disclosure, where you list all the documents that support what you said in your financial statement.
- Support Deduction Order, if you, or your partner, are asking for support.
- Support Deduction Order Information Form, if you, or your partner, are asking for support.
You will also get a notice to attend a Mandatory Information Program (MIP). The Step Go to a Mandatory Information Session gives you more information about the MIP.
You have 30 days to fill out, serve, and file your Form 10: Answer. But, 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. The Step How to bring a regular motion explains the process.
If you don’t respond in time, the judge may decide the issues based only on your partner’s documents and evidence.
Even if your partner has started a court case, you can still talk with them at any time and try to reach an agreement to resolve your issues. You can talk to your partner on your own, with the help of someone you both trust, or with the help of a lawyer.
You can also get help from a family law professional. The Step Get help from a family law professional gives you more information on this.