Family Law FAQ


How much will the entire proceedings cost?

Our lawyers bill on a monthly basis based on the lawyer’s hourly rate. The amount charged will be based on the amount of time spent by the lawyer on your case. It is very difficult to give an estimate of how much this will cost because there are many variables involved. Additionally, we charge for expenses called “disbursements” which include things like filing fees or expert report fees.

Where can I get more information on family law?

The Legal Services Society of BC has a good overview of family law in BC. JP Boyd on Family Law also contains a detailed explanation of family law in BC. MySupportCalculator offers a free calculator for spousal support and child support.

What is the difference between a marriage and a common-law relationship?

In British Columbia, there is little distinction between legally married couples and those couples who are unmarried and in a common law relationship. British Columbia updated its family law legislation in 2013 to give common-law couples the same rights as married couples when it comes to property, spousal support and rights of inheritance.

Will I have to go to court?

Around 98% of family law cases end in an out-of-court settlement through the negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. Settlement can be recorded in a separation agreement, minutes of settlement, or a consent order. Trial is a very expensive option and settlement is usually preferable.

What should I do before separating from my spouse?

Before leaving the family home, you should make copies of banking, tax, housing/mortgage, insurance, pension, and investment documents for the previous three years. You should also try to obtain your original marriage certificate which you need in order to file for divorce in BC.


How long does it take to get a divorce?

To apply for a divorce, you must have lived separate and apart for 1 year. After the year’s separation, a simple, uncontested divorce will take around 6 months (depending on how fast the court registry processes the application). Where children or property division is involved, the process can take multiple years.

How much does it cost to get a simple divorce?

If your ex-partner does not contest your application, it will cost around $1,000 to $2,000 (plus taxes and disbursements).

Do I need to be living in B.C. in order to proceed?

For a BC court to pronounce a divorce, either you or your ex-spouse must have been resident in BC for at least one year.

Can I be divorced in B.C. if one person in my marriage is from another province or country?

You can apply for divorce in BC so long as either you or your ex-partner are resident in BC for at least one year before your application.

Child Support

How much child support should I receive?

Child support is paid monthly and the amount is set according to the paying parent’s income. The Department of Justice publishes child support guidelines where you can look up these amounts. You can also use MySupportCalculator to find out how much child support you should pay or receive.

What do I do if I can no longer make support payments?

If your circumstances have changed (you’re making less money or are no longer employed) or you cannot afford to pay child support arrears, you can apply to court to change the current child support payments.

Will I be denied the ability to see my child if I cannot make support payments?

The payment of child support and parenting time are completely separate issues. Parenting time is not reduced to compensate for a lack of child support.

What do I do if I am not receiving child support payments?

You can go to court and ask a judge to enforce your child support order or separation agreement. You can also ask the judge to impose fines or penalties on the person not paying child support.


My partner has/wants to move away with my children. What can I do?

If your partner wants to relocate with the kids, they must, under section 66 of BC’s Family Law Act, provide you with 60 days’ written notice. You then have the option to go to court and contest the proposed relocation. If your partner has already relocated, you can ask the court for an order that they be forced to return.

Who gets custody in B.C.? Am I less likely to get primary guardianship as the father?

There is no hard and fast rule about who gets custody of the children after a separation. Courts make decisions on this issue based entirely what they see as the best interests of the child. Common factors include the child’s health and well-being, the nature of the relationship to the parents, the child’s views, and the need the child has for stability.

My ex is denying me parenting time. What can I do?

You can go to court and ask for an order that your parenting arrangements be enforced. You can also ask the court to impose fines or penalties on the person denying you parenting time.

Is family law different if I’m in a same-sex marriage/relationship?

British Columbia’s Family Law Act does not discriminate between same-sex relationships and heterosexual relationships.

Spousal Support

Am I entitled to spousal support?

Spousal support (often called alimony in the US) is money paid from one spouse to the other following separation. Spousal support is often paid to compensate for lost career opportunities (i.e. one partner was a stay-at-home parent). Spousal support is also sometimes paid where one partner needs the support because they are not self-sufficient following separation.

How much spousal support will I receive/pay?

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (SSAG) provide guidance as to the amount of spousal support payments. However, each case depends on its own circumstances and the SSAG only provides a very rough idea of what should be paid. Consider speaking with a lawyer to better understand your spousal support rights or obligations.

How long does spousal support last after separation/divorce?

The short answer is that the duration of spousal support payments depends on your circumstances. Factors which affect the duration of spousal support payments include the financial means of each party, the length of the relationship, the roles of each party in the relationship, and whether both parties are likely to end up self-sufficient after separation.

Property Division

How is property divided up in a divorce/separation?

Anything which is classified as “family property” will usually be divided 50/50. This includes the family home, investments, bank accounts, insurance policies, pensions, and businesses. Property you own before the relationship, inheritances, family trusts, and insurance awards are excluded. However, any increase in the value of an excluded asset will be split equally.

If I separate/divorce from my spouse will I have to pay their debt?

Family debt includes things like mortgages, personal lines of credit, informal loans, and overdrafts which are incurred during the relationship. Family debt is almost always divided equally between the parties. Debt incurred after separation is usually not divisible, unless it is debt used to maintain a family property (for example, remortgaging a home to prevent foreclosure).

Will I have to share my pension if I get a divorce?

Pensions are considered divisible family property, meaning any pension benefits earned during the relationship will be split. This can include employer pension plans, stock options, or deferred profit sharing plans. Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) credits will be divided following a separation unless there is a specific court order or separation agreement stating otherwise.

Mediation/Collaborative Law

How is mediation used in family law?

Mediation is a method of resolving family law disputes through assisted negotiations conducted by a neutral mediator. It is a more flexible process than the traditional court process. The mediator acts as facilitator and moderator of a conversation between the parties. Mediation can be used to resolve a wide variety of family law concerns, from cohabitation and prenuptial agreements to separation and divorce agreements.

Why should I go to family law mediation?

Mediation has several advantages:

Mediation often nets results more quickly and less expensively than litigation. Mediation is private and all discussions are kept confidential. In a trial, courts are open to the public and are a matter of public record.Mediation is flexible, and allows families to explore unique solutions outside of the traditional, adversarial court process.

What is arbitration?

Though prevalent within business law, arbitration is less commonly used to resolve family law disputes. Arbitration feels similar to litigation in that both sides present evidence and arguments before an impartial arbitrator. After hearing the arguments, the arbitrator makes a final decision. However, unlike a trial, in arbitration you control the issues discussed, evidence introduced, timelines and procedures.

Family Agreements

What is a prenuptial agreement (prenup)?

A prenuptial agreement, otherwise known as a prenup, is a type of family law contract which states what will happen if the marriage ends in a divorce. It is usually made prior to the marriage. Common topics include (1) how finances during the marriage will be handled, (2) how family property will be divided in the event of a divorce, (3) whether spousal support will be payable after separation.

Why should I get a prenup?

While we would like to assume all relationships last forever, statistics show that simply isn't the case. Discussing how you would fairly distribute assets in good faith at a time when you are calm and reasonably objective is much easier, faster and less expensive than attempting to come to an agreement after you separate.

How much does a prenuptial agreement (prenup) cost?

It depends on the complexity of the agreement and the number of revisions that are required. Generally, a prenuptial agreement will cost between $2,000 and $2,500.

What is a separation agreement?

A separation agreement is a type of family law contract which reflects how a couple has agreed to end their relationship. Common topics include (1) child support, (2) spousal support, (3) parenting arrangements, and (4) how family property will be divided. Separation agreements provide a quick and relatively inexpensive option for resolving a family law dispute.

How much does a separation agreement cost?

It depends on the complexity of the agreement and the number of revisions that are required. Generally, a separation agreement will cost between $2,000 and $3,000.