Family Law

The lawyers at South Coast Law Group offer advice about legal rights and obligations upon the breakdown of family relationships.

Our Family Law team provides counsel with respect to: Divorce, Custody, Guardianship, Parenting time, Mobility, Child Support, Spousal Support, Property Division, Separation Agreements and Cohabitation Agreements.

Our lawyers have experience at the Provincial, Supreme and Appellate Court levels.

We hope some of the following information will help you better understand your situation. Call or email today to speak with a lawyer, or to set up an appointment to discuss your case.

FAQs related to Family Law:

Probably not. In BC, court costs (if any) are a matter left to the discretion of the court. In many cases, there are no court costs payable, except if one party has been unreasonable or recalcitrant, or has misbehaved. However, in some family cases, costs are awarded to the victor in a suit (even where there has been no misconduct) but “court costs” are not payable to the lawyer–they are paid to the party. Additionally, remember that court costs are not the same as “legal fees”, and are typically a fraction of what a party actually pays to counsel.

What about Family Debt?

With the coming into force of the Family Law Act (FLA) on March 18, 2013, British Columbia now has a definition of family debt that did not exist under the prior Family Relations Act (FRA).

Previously, the BC courts only had jurisdiction to offset family debts against family assets. Now, the legislation is specific and defines family debts and provides guidance as to how they should be dealt with.

Section 86 says:
Family debt includes all financial obligations incurred by a spouse

(a) during the period beginning when the relationship between the spouses begins and ending when the spouses separate, and
(b) after the date of separation, if incurred for the purpose of maintaining family property

If the equal division of family debt is significantly unfair, there is a provision under s. 95 of the FLA providing the Court limited jurisdiction to vary the division.

To learn how the changes will affect you and your family specifically, contact our office for a consultation.

Additional Things to Consider:

Guardianship of Children

Custody, Guardianship, and Access out, Guardianship, Parental Responsibility, and Parenting Time in.

The coming into force of the new Family Law Act (FLA) in BC on March 18, 2013, signals a significant change in the approach to dealing with parenting the children of separated parents.

Historically, parents have battled fiercely over the words custody and guardianship. Should it be sole? Should it be joint? What advantage does one title give one parent over the other?

The new law completely changes the focus to the child. The new Family Law Act removes the best interests of the child as the paramount consideration and makes it the ONLY consideration. Parents have responsibilities to their children and the right to parent them, rather than custody of them and access to them.

Under the FLA, parents don’t have joint guardianship, they simply are guardians. Guardians must exercise their parental responsibilities solely in accordance with the best interest of their children. Parental responsibilities are defined in s. 41 of the FLA:

  • (a) making day-to-day decisions affecting the child and having day-to-day care, control and supervision of the child;
  • (b) making decisions respecting where the child will reside;
  • (c) making decisions respecting with whom the child will live and associate;
  • (d) making decisions respecting the child’s education and participation in extracurricular activities, including the nature, extent and location;
  • (e) making decisions respecting the child’s cultural, linguistic, religious and spiritual upbringing and heritage, including, if the child is an aboriginal child, the child’s aboriginal identity;
  • (f) subject to section 17 of the Infants Act, giving, refusing or withdrawing consent to medical, dental and other health-related treatments for the child;
  • (g) applying for a passport, licence, permit, benefit, privilege or other thing for the child;
  • (h) giving, refusing or withdrawing consent for the child, if consent is required;
  • (i) receiving and responding to any notice that a parent or guardian is entitled or required by law to receive;
  • (j) requesting and receiving from third parties health, education or other information respecting the child;
  • (k) subject to any applicable provincial legislation,
    1. starting, defending, compromising or settling any proceeding relating to the child, and
    2. identifying, advancing and protecting the child’s legal and financial interests;
  • (l) exercising any other responsibilities reasonably necessary to nurture the child’s development.

This list is not exhaustive but is meant to provide guidance to parents and decision-makers when apportioning responsibilities among parents. These responsibilities can be shared between both parents or apportioned between them only in accordance with the best interests of the child or children.

Under the FLA, only guardians are entitled to parenting time. Non-guardians are entitled to “contact” with children.

Guardians are free to make their own arrangements and agreements regarding allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, so long as the arrangements are consistent with the best interests of the child. If they are unable to do so on their own, the FLA provides for many Family Dispute Resolution Professionals to assist parties. These include family justice counsellors, parenting coordinators, family law lawyers, mediators, arbitrators, and the courts, if other dispute resolutions options are unworkable under the circumstances.

To learn how the changes will affect you and your family specifically or for help in making arrangements for your children, contact our office for a consultation.