A Guide to Applying to Change a Court Order - Making a 'Variation Application'

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As with any court application, it is strongly recommended that you get legal advice when you make this application.

For information on ways to find a lawyer and get legal advice, including free or low-cost options, click here.

For definitions of family law terms, visit our Glossary.

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WHAT THIS GUIDE IS FOR

This guide helps you apply to the court to ask to change a previous final court order. This is called filing a variation application.

You can only make a variation application to change the terms of a final order. You can’t make a variation application to change an interim order. An interim order is one that is made ‘in the meantime,’ before all of the issues have been finalized. For example, you might have an interim order to deal with parenting issues and support while your divorce is being processed.

If you are divorced, your final order is usually called a ‘Corollary Relief Order.’ Other types of final orders may be called ‘Consent Order,’ ‘Final Order’ or ‘Order.’  You will find the title of your order on the front page of the order, just below the names of the parties.

A separation agreement or minutes of settlement that has been registered with a court may also be a final order.

You can make a variation application to change the terms of your order relating to children (parenting arrangements or support) or spousal support if there is a change in circumstances. This may include something like a job loss that may affect child support, or a change in the children’s living arrangements.

Where you file your variation application will depend on where you, the other party, and perhaps the children, live. It will also depend on whether or not you are divorced from the other party or whether you were in a common law relationship with the other party. Please see the section called ‘Where do I file my variation application?’ for more information.

Note: if you have a final order with terms dealing with property, pensions, or debts, you probably cannot change those terms. Once these issues are final, usually as part of a divorce, you generally cannot change them afterward. If you have a final order for property, pensions, or debts that you want to have changed, you should speak to a lawyer for advice. You should also speak with a lawyer if you are not sure whether or not your order is a final order.