Family law deals with a range of legal issues regarding relationships between spouses, parents and their children. Family law covers separation, divorce, adoption, protection orders and more.
If you are separating or going through a divorce, you probably have a lot of questions. LegalHelpBC provides a series of common family law questions to get you started on the right path. Learn your legal rights and options. Understand which laws apply to your situation and which court to go to.
For separation and divorce, the key legal issues include parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support, and property division. People are encouraged to try to resolve their family law issues outside of court through negotiation, mediation, or other forms of dispute resolution.
The BC government provides Family Justice Centres throughout the province which provide free help to address separation/divorce issues. In addition, JES provides free coaching customized to each client through LawCoachBC.
If the issues can’t be resolved outside of court, people may end up in either the Provincial Court or Supreme Court of British Columbia. If you have family law questions, Ask JES.
If you are going through separation or divorce in BC, there are a range of free legal help services and resources.
The BC government provides Family Justice Centres throughout the province which provide free help to address separation/divorce issues. In addition, JES provides free coaching customized to each client through LawCoachBC. Your law coach will provide you with specific information and resources to help you move forward with your separation or divorce.
How to Separate is an online course with information, worksheets and explanations of family laws that may affect your separation. It also provides information about navigating the family court systems.
If you have children, you should take the Parenting After Separation course. This course is mandatory for some court processes. It provides useful information and resources to parents.
There are two types of protection orders: family law protection orders and peace bonds.
A family law protection order is made under the Family Law Act and you can ask for one in the Provincial Court or the Supreme Court. It is only to protect you from family members. Someone you dated might not count as a family member. You should consider speaking to a lawyer if you are seeing a family law protection order. Legal Aid BC created a guide for how to apply for a family law protection order. You might also qualify for a free lawyer through Legal Aid who could assist you in making an application for a protection order.
A peace bond is a protection order made under s. 810 of the Criminal Code of Canada. It does not create a criminal record. Contact your local police to ask for one. A peace bond can be against anyone including someone you dated. You do not need a lawyer as Crown counsel (a government lawyer) will make the application for you in criminal court.
No, it is not necessary to go to court to separate or divorce. If you are married and you want to divorce, you must file documents with the court. This does not mean you will have a trial. More than half of all separations and divorces in BC are settled without going to a trial
In British Columbia, only the Supreme Court of British Columbia can grant a divorce (not the BC Provincial Court). There are certain criteria that must be met for a court to grant a divorce. Learn more about divorce requirements.
If you are just getting started with separation or divorce, LawCoachBC provides free legal help services so that you can understand the process, your options and hopefully settle without going to trial. You can learn more about separating by taking the free How to Separate Course. You can register for the free course called Parenting After Separation.
If you and your former spouse have worked out the key issues related to your separation or divorce, you can complete this Online Separation Agreement. Once completed, it can be filed with your court documents.
If you and your spouse are ready to file for divorce together, you can use the BC Government’s Online Divorce Assistance to complete the forms that you need to file for divorce:
In British Columbia, both the Provincial Court and Supreme Court hear family law cases. The BC Provincial Court is sometimes called Family Court because it is generally easier and less costly for people to deal with family law issues in this court. For this reason, whenever possible, it is good to settle whatever issues you can in BC Provincial Court and then to only use BC Supreme Court as necessary.
Only the BC Supreme Court can make orders for divorce and property division. The Supreme Court can make orders under the Canadian Divorce Act and the BC Family Law Act. The Provincial Court can only make orders under the BC Family Law Act.
You may have a choice as to which court to go to and you should consider speaking to a lawyer about the advantages and disadvantages of both.
For more information about which BC court to use for family law issues and the differences between the courts, see the How to Separate website. If you need help to learn more about your legal rights and options to separate or divorce, visit LawCoachBC or a Family Justice Centre.
The Parenting After Separation course is mandatory for separating parents who have child-related issues and will be going to BC Provincial Court. It is often recommended for all parents going through separation because it provides information on how separation can affect children and it explains your legal rights and obligations.
There is also a Parenting After Separation Finances online course that many people find useful as separation is a significant change to a person’s financial situation. If you want a comprehensive course about aspects of separation including property division, children, spousal support and how to navigate the court system, you can take the How to Separate course.
Your date of separation is the date you began living separate and apart from your partner. You can still live in the same house and be living separate and apart. If you do continue to live in the same house, you should establish a specific separation date.
The date of separation is important in family law. There are limitation periods that can be affected by the date of separation. For example, a criteria for divorce is that you have been living separate and apart for at least one year. Under the Family Law Act, you have two years from the date of separation to make a claim for spousal support or property division.
If you are unsure about your date of separation, you should speak to a lawyer. You can have a free 30-minute consultation with a lawyer through the Lawyer Referral Service.
For more information about issues related to starting a separation, see the How to Separate website. If you need help to learn more about your legal rights and options to separate or divorce, visit LawCoachBC or a Family Justice Centre.
You do not need to be married to seek spousal support. In British Columbia, under the Family Law Act, you may be eligible for spousal support if you have been living in a marriage-like relationship for at least two continuous years.
You have to pay child support until your child is at least 19 years old. You may still have to support them after the age of 19 years if they are unable to support themselves because of having an illness, disability, or another reason, such as being enrolled in school. You can read more about when child support ends.
The Canadian Child Benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18 years of age. The person who is primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child should apply for the CCB.
When two partners reside in the same home as the child, the female partner is presumed to be primarily responsible. If this is not true, the other parent can apply for the CCB by providing a letter from the female parent stating who is primarily responsible for the care and upbringing of the child. When parents separate, the mother will continue to receive the CCB unless or until a change is made. Learn more about the Canadian Child Benefit.
Grandparents may apply for “contact time” with a grandchild. This is different from “parenting time”. Generally, a grandparent should get time with their grandchild through the parent; however, circumstances can arise that prevent a grandparent from seeing their grandchild and it may be necessary to ask the court for contact time. Learn more about child contact time.