1. How long will it take for me to get a divorce?This depends on a number of factors, including the issues to be dealt with, the complexity of your family’s finances, the position that each party takes about the issues, the relationship between the parties and matters such as availability of judges and court time.
If all you need is a divorce and you have already been separated for one year, the divorce order may be issued about five months from the time your Notice of Family Claim is filed at the Supreme Court registry.
If you need a divorce, but parenting arrangements, support or property division are contested, it is difficult to predict how long your case will take to resolve.
2. What is mediation?Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third party assists litigants or disputants to talk through their issues and options and reach their own agreement. The mediator is not a “decider”, but a facilitator who helps to keep the discussions rational, constructive and respectful.
Brenda, and Carla are trained mediators. For more information, see also.
3. What is collaborative divorce and separation?Collaborative divorce is a process that brings together family lawyers, mental health professionals and financial advisors to help parties resolve marital issues outside of court. It replaces the adversarial process with a respectful team problem-solving approach.
4. What is the role of a parenting coordinator?Parenting coordinators offer a child-focused dispute resolution process. Senior family lawyers and mental health professionals with special training mediate or arbitrate parenting disputes that arise after a parenting order or agreement is in place.
More information about this service, for which Carla is trained and certified, can be found at www.bcparentingcoordinators.com.
5. Do same-sex and common-law couples have the same family law rights as opposite sex, married couples?The short answer is, yes, regarding child support, support for the former partner and parenting issues. Regarding property division, there is one extra requirement: unmarried partners must cohabit in a marriage-like relationship for two years before they are entitled to a division of property on separation.
Under the Family Law Act, family property (everything owned by each partner except for excluded property) is to be divided equally on separation. Inheritances, personal injury settlements, and property owned before the marriage or marriage-like relationship are examples of excluded property.
But increases in value of excluded property (since the cohabitation or marriage date, or since the excluded property was received) may become family property that has to be shared at separation. Once the same-sex or opposite-sex common-law couple has met the two year threshold, their property division is to be the same as if they had married at the beginning of that two-year (or longer) period of cohabiting in a marriage-like relationship.
6. Is a pre-nuptial agreement the same as a cohabitation agreement? Is a marriage agreement the same as a pre-nuptial or cohabitation agreement?Under the FLA, there is no requirement that partners enter into a family law agreement with one another at any particular time, nor a requirement that an agreement have any particular title.
Family law agreements, whether made before the partners moved in together, or while they were living together, or after they have separated, are all just “agreements respecting family law disputes,” to use the words in the statute.
In practice, the descriptions pre-nuptial agreement, cohabitation agreement, marriage agreement and separation agreement, are used as they best fit the occasion and circumstances of the parties. Agreements can deal with a dispute that might arise in the future, or with a dispute that has in fact already arisen.
7. What will it cost me to get divorced?The cost of completing a divorce is as difficult to estimate as the length of time involved. We generally bill our clients on the following formula: Hourly rate x hours spent on the client’s case. We also charge for expenses such as court filing fees, service of documents and courier and agent’s fees.
8. Are there ways to keep my legal costs down?You can take action to minimize your legal fees. For example, when you first meet with your lawyer, be pro-active and bring all the documents that you think might be relevant to your case.
If your case relates to support or property division, bring your three most recent tax returns and notices of assessment, current pay slips, municipal tax assessments for real estate, corporate and financial statements and tax returns, statements for RRSPs, bank accounts, credit accounts and other investments.
Write out any important information beforehand so that it is easy for you to tell your story to the lawyer. Brenda has written an article (link to article) that explores various cost-saving measures.
9. What is a "legal separation"?In British Columbia, there is no requirement for a court order or an agreement to establish that you are separated. For the purposes of obtaining a divorce, it is usually enough to give sworn evidence stating the date on which you stopped living with your spouse.
The FLA confirms that:
• spouses may be separated despite continuing to live in the same residence, and
• a court may consider, as evidence of separation, the communication by one spouse to the other spouse of an intention to separate permanently, and any action, taken by a spouse, that demonstrates the spouse’s intention to separate permanently.
10. What if I cannot afford a lawyer?You may be eligible for legal aid, which is provided through the Legal Services Society of British Columbia (www.lss.bc.ca). You may be able to retain a lawyer who will represent you pro bono, that is, at a reduced rate. You may have the assistance of a lawyer to help you with some parts of your case, while you take care of other parts of it on your own.
You can also get information about your family law matter from the Canadian Bar Association’s LawLine or Lawyer Referral Service (both at www.cba.org), the Family Justice Centre, or the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program (www.lslap.bc.ca).
– Martin Luther King, Jr.