Family Law: Relationships, Children, Support, Marriage, Cohabitation and Divorce
You may be reading this page because your marriage or relationship has broken down. No matter what the cause, you are likely to feel a whole range of intense emotions: sadness, anger, fear of an uncertain future, confusion over the many decisions you must make. We understand how difficult this can be.
Divorces are costly. They cost time and money, health and happiness.
Let us guide you through those intense emotions by providing you with clear legal advice.
What decisions you must make?
The decisions you must make fall into four main areas that you must consider when you relationship breaks down. These are “Your Children”, “Your Home and Investments”, “Your Income” and “Your Future”. Some of the questions you may have are: How will you parent? Where will you live? Where will the children live? How will you survive financially? What happens with your property, pensions and debts? Will child support and spousal support be payable? How do you get a divorce in British Columbia? Must you go to court? What options are available to help you? How can you keep your family safe?
Being reasonable is essential. Knowing what is reasonable is critical. As your family lawyers, we can help you find answers to these questions and guide you to make informed, reasonable, decisions.
How long does it take?
The first step is to identify your immediate needs and gather the necessary evidence to meet them. That is followed by contact with your spouse/partner either directly or through counsel with a request to engage in negotiations.
Once all necessary information to determine a reasonable settlement has been gathered and analyzed, sometimes agreement is almost within reach. Negotiating a formal and fair agreement as early as possible often makes sense from a financial perspective. Straight forward matters that are negotiated in good faith, with full disclosure of necessary information, can often be resolved in a few months.
However, sometimes agreement is just not possible. More complex matters and cases that involve partners/spouses who are high-conflict or who are unwilling to cooperate in the process or lack trust in their partner can take much longer. The court process is designed to reach the stage of trial within a year. Again, if it is a complex matter, high conflict, or marked by a failure to cooperate and a lack of trust it can take eighteen months to three years to resolve. This does not mean efforts at achieving settlement end. Settlement may be reached at a Judicial Settlement Conference once the court process has started. In many cases it is only through a combined use of both settlement negotiations and court process that a timely resolution can be achieved.
If you cannot agree, the options are:
You can mediate issues in dispute with your partner, if your partner agrees to attend a mediation. It is an entirely voluntary process aimed at getting the parties to reach a middle ground. In British Columbia, there are legal regulations governing the qualifications for family law mediators. Ensure that if you choose this route, your family mediator is properly qualified.
You can retain a family lawyer to advise you of the law and case law applicable to any issues in dispute, and provide you with a legal opinion about your options. You can instruct the lawyer to negotiate with your spouse on your behalf, or to attend a mediation or settlement conference with you. Or you can prepare for litigation.
You can start a family law case in court in order to resolve issues in dispute with your partner. In British Columbia there are two different court levels where you can start a family law claim. The Provincial Court can deal with issues relating to children and support, but not property, debt, or granting a divorce order. The Supreme Court can deal with all issues relating to relationship breakdown.
If you can agree, the options are:
Cohabitation or Marriage Agreements
You can draw up a written agreement with your partner about how you want to arrange your finances and other aspects of your life together at any time – before or after you start to live together. Through the agreement, you can opt-out of the background law and choose your own arrangements for various aspects of your life.
An agreement between common-law spouses is called a cohabitation agreement and an agreement between married spouses is called a marriage agreement, or in some cases, a pre-nuptial agreement.
The process of drawing up an agreement can be helpful in working through key issues with your partner to establish a shared understanding, prevent future conflict and opt out of the background law which will provide each person with pre-set rights and responsibilities.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a Marriage/Cohabitation Questionnaire.
You can make a separation agreement when you are thinking of separating or afterwards. You can decide on how children will be cared for, how pensions will be divided, how property and debt will be split, as well as child support or if there will be any spousal support. You will have to make full financial disclosure. It is advisable to get independent legal advice on any agreement.
Email us at email@example.com for a Separation Agreement Questionnaire.
Practice Areas at Nova Law
Some of the Divorce and Family Law matters we helps clients with are:
- Divorce and Separation,
- Separation Agreements,
- Common Law Relationship Claims,
- Cohabitation Agreements,
- Marriage Agreements (commonly known as a prenup, prenuptial or premarital),
- Child custody and access disputes,
- Child guardianship and parenting time disputes,
- Parental Alienation,
- Child Support and Spousal Support applications,
- Family property division,
- Family debt division,
- Pension Division,
- Enforcement of Orders,
- Variation of Orders.
How much does it cost?
There are certain matters where we are able to charge a flat fee, such as for the preparation of desk order divorces, separation agreements, and marriage/cohabitation agreements. In other matters, where negotiation and/or court applications are necessary estimating cost is more complicated and so discussing your matter with a lawyer is the best way to estimate costs.
The greater the hours that have to be devoted to the matter, the higher the fees. In such files, typically, a retainer is required which is an up front deposit from which the lawyer pays interim accounts. The amount of that retainer will usually depend on the complexity of the case. Our firm renders accounts on a monthly basis so our clients know what work was done and how much their file is costing to date.
For more information on prices and cost, please see our Value Pricing page.