Family Law Services
TLC Family Law Practice provides legal guidance from our offices in Prince George and Nanaimo for the following issues:
Parental Rights and Responsibilities
There are a number of parental rights and responsibilities described in s. 41 of the Family Law Act, including making decisions regarding where the child will reside, with whom the child will live and associate, respecting the child's education and extracurricular activities and obtaining information with respect to the child's health and education, among other things. Sometimes parents will share equal decision making power regarding these parental rights and responsibilities. Sometimes it is preferable that one parent will have sole decision making power. As a middle ground, sometimes one parent will have the right to make such decision and the other parent will have the right to seek a review of any decision that they feel is contrary to the best interests of the child or children.
Custody, Guardianship, Parenting Time, and Access
Prior to enactment of the Family Law Act we would regularly use the terminology of custody and access. Now, pursuant to the Family Law Act guardianship has become far more important in British Columbia and we refer to a guardian’s time with a child as Parenting Time. In the event that a Party is not a guardian to the child, they are given contact instead of Parenting Time.
Child Support and Spousal Support
It has become much easier to set child support and spousal support now that the government has issued the Child Support Guidelines and the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. Determination of income, however, can be tricky and requires careful legal consideration. Also, there are additional expenses of the children often referred to as section 7, special or extraordinary expenses commonly shared by the parents, such as daycare and competitive sports travel expenses.
Variation of Existing Orders and Agreements
As life marches on, circumstances of the Parties and the children can change, necessitating variation of the existing Order or Agreement usually with respect to residency, Parenting Time, child support and spousal support. Issues such as property division and division of debt are not reviewable unless the Order is appealed or an application is made to set aside the Agreement. You need compelling grounds to set aside an Agreement and there are very short time limits to appeal an Order.
Property and Pension Division
Pursuant to the Family Law Act, division of family property is presumed to be equal. In order to obtain an unequal division in your favour you need to prove your contribution outside the relationship to family property or inside the relationship but from funds obtained prior to the relationship, gifts from family, inheritance or insurance proceeds.
Determination of Exempt Assets
Assets acquired outside the relationship or from funds received by a Party prior to the commencement of relationship or by way of gift or insurance are referred to as excluded property. Although the increase in value of an asset may be shareable as between the Parties, any excluded property should be repaid prior to division of the asset between the Parties.
Division of Family Debt
Prior to the Family Law Act, there was no statutory provision that actually divided family debt. Now, at least between the parties, family debt can be divided.
Given the high cost of litigation, it is usually preferable to resolve most matters by Agreement. Provided both parties have a genuine inclination to settle, there are common practices and processes available to propel the matter towards settlement rather than litigation.
You are separated in fact as at the date of your psychological separation. Depending on the facts of your specific case, you can absolutely be separated from your spouse yet continue to reside in the same residence. In my mind, to be legally separated you should have a written Separation Agreement in place which settles all issues between the Parties except (in the case of married spouses) the Divorce itself.
Where a couple chooses not to marry immediately or at all, and the Parties wish to opt out of the treatment of family law principles mandated by the Family Law Act, the Parties are permitted to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement which sets out the parameters of the Parties’ expectations as regards support and division of family property and debt in the event of separation or death.
Where a couple chooses to marry and the Parties wish to opt out of the treatment of family law principles mandated by the Family Law Act, the Parties are permitted to enter into a Prenuptial Agreement which sets out the parameters of the Parties’ expectations as regards support and division of family property and debt in the event of separation or death.
Where a couple is already married and Parties wish to opt out of the treatment of family law principles mandated by the Family Law Act, a Marriage Agreement can be prepared to set out the Parties’ expectations as regards support and division of family property and debt in the event of separation or death.
In the event of separation of the Parties it is usually preferable to resolve all issues by agreement and document that agreement by way of Separation Agreement. Some people commonly refer to this Agreement as a Legal Separation.
Supreme Court Proceeding
We have 3 levels of family court in British Columbia: Provincial Court (which deals primarily with corollary relief issues relating to children and support but not property, debt or divorce); Supreme Court (which deals with all issues including property, debt and divorce); and the Court of Appeal (which deals with appeals).
Even if we settle a matter by way of Separation Agreement, we must commence a Supreme Court proceeding to obtain your Divorce. A Judge must pronounce your Divorce Order. However, provided everything else has been resolved and child support has been set in accordance with the Child Support Guidelines, we can obtain your Divorce by way of desk Order without the necessity of you going to Court.