What do you do if you cannot afford a family lawyer? Navigating the legal system can be intimidating and expensive. Many people feel that they cannot afford to retain a lawyer. As a result, these people may decide not to pursue their legal matter, or choose to represent themselves. However, this is not your only option — there are systems in place to support you.
Option 1. Legal Aid
If your income is low and you do not own any significant assets, you may be able to qualify for Legal Aid. Legal aid is free legal help for people with low incomes who are facing certain legal issues.It includes legal information and advice and legal representation, aka a lawyer to handle your case.
Option 2. Legal Information
Family Law BC offers free legal advice online including:
- Basic information about family law issues
- Step-by-step guides to legal processes
- Short graphic stories about people dealing with family law issues
- Short videos on legal topics
- Links to organizations and people who can help you
- Definitions of legal terms
- A live chat option (with law students and others who provide information and help people navigate the website)
Option 3. Legal Advice
Legal advice is provided by lawyers paid for by Legal Aid BC.
Family duty counsel lawyers can help you deal with your family law problems if you have a low income. Family advice lawyers might be able to give you up to three hours of free legal advice for your family law problem.
Option 4. Legal Representation
Legal representation is when Legal Aid BC pays a lawyer to represent a person with a low income who has serious family law problems.
You can get a lawyer to represent you if:
- You meet the financial guidelines,
- Your legal problem is covered by legal aid rules (see below), and
- You have no other way of getting legal help.
You have to be able to say "yes" to all three of these points to qualify.
Legal Aid Rules for Serious Family Problems
You can get a legal aid lawyer to represent you in your family law case:
In emergency situations. For example:
- When you need a court order right away to protect your or your children's safety and security, or
- To sort out a serious denial of access to your children.
in other situations, depending on the Legal Aid budget and your circumstances:
- To sort out serious legal issues in cases with a lot of conflicts, or
- When all other efforts to settle the case haven't worked and settled your case will make a significant difference to you or your children.
Legal Aid Rules for Child Protection Matters
You can get a lawyer to represent you if:
- A social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a delegated Aboriginal agency has taken or has threatened to take your child or children away from you, or
- There are custody and access issues related to a child in the care of the Ministry for Children and Family Development.
To learn more about Legal Aid or to apply click here.
Option 5. Unbundling
Another option to help lessen the cost of attaining a family lawyer is Unbundling. Unbundling can help with all sorts of legal matters that impact families. Family law issues are uniquely personal. Insight and guidance from a knowledgeable and compassionate family lawyer can be invaluable. Some of the matters include:
- Divorce and Separation
- Parenting, Custody, and Access
- Spousal and Child Support
- Family Property
- Court System
What is Unbundling?
Instead of hiring a lawyer to handle your entire case, you can hire a lawyer to handle specific parts. Doing so “unbundles” these tasks from the parts you can do yourself.
For example, if you’re going to court, you can hire a lawyer to help you prepare documents or to coach you on how to present your case.
By paying only for the legal services you can afford, unbundling helps you manage your finances as you’re dealing with your legal problem.
How Westside Family Law Can HelpAt Westside Family Law we can support you through Unbundling. If you are ready to get started on your family case, or if you have questions, fill out the form here or call us directly at 604-734-7911. Our team is ready to listen to your concerns, answer your questions, and help you make informed choices about how to move your case forward. As with everything we do, our conversations and correspondence will be kept strictly between us.