I Just Separated from the Other Parent of My Children
| Alert: Extensive changes to family law in British Columbia came into effect on March 18, 2013. JP Boyd on Family Law has extensive, updated coverage of Separation.
If you and the other parent of your children have separated, you need to make decisions about who will have parental responsibility for the children, which includes things like:
- making day-to-day decisions affecting the children,
- having day-to-day care of the children,
- making decisions about where the children will live, and
- making decisions about the children's education and extra-curricular activities.
You will also need to decide if the other parent will have parenting time or contact with the children, and how you will handle support (regular financial support for the children and, if necessary, you or the other parent).
- Get some initial help with:
- finding out what your legal rights and those of your children are. A lawyer is the professional most likely to assist you; and
- deciding whether mediation, collaborative family law or other kinds of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) are safe and likely to work fairly for you. If there have been problems of violence, threats, intimidation, or financial abuse, or if there has been a history of controlling behaviour, ADR may not be right for you at this time, due to a power imbalance in your relationship. Family Justice Counsellors, mediators and lawyers are the professionals most often assisting with this.
- If there has been family violence, see the article My partner is abusing me and my kids.
- You may want to take or retain copies of tax, banking and financial documents, passports, marriage certificates and other financial documents with you.
- If you need a lawyer but cannot afford one on your own, see if you qualify for legal aid representation. If you don't qualify for legal aid representation, or if you think you can resolve your issues through mediation, you may wish to contact a Family Justice Centre. Counsellors at Family Justice Centres can provide information, mediation and assistance with applications involving guardianship, parenting time, and support in Family Court. However, they have no jurisdiction to help with divorce or division of family property and debts.
- If you want to apply for a court order dealing with who the children will live with, parenting time, or financial support, you can apply to Family Court. Family Court forms and self-help information are available online at the Family Law in BC website. Click on the shortcut "Self-help guides," scroll down to "Family orders" and click on the appropriate link. If you feel the situation is urgent, you may ask the judge to make the order "without notice," meaning that the court can make its order if justified, without your ex-partner being notified in advance that you are seeking an order, or having a chance to be heard. "Without notice" orders are almost always interim (short-term), and provide a date for your case to come back to court, etc.
What happens next
If you qualify for legal aid representation, a lawyer will be appointed to represent you in your case and lead you through the court process.
If you apply for a court order, you will have to arrange to serve your ex with a copy of the application and notice of the court date, unless it is dangerous or impractical to do so. A court date will be set by the court once your ex files a reply.
Where to get help
See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- Legal aid representation to see if you qualify for legal aid.
- Family Law in BC website, for forms, self-help materials and other legal information about family legal issues.
- The Clicklaw Wikibook JP Boyd on Family Law and in particular the chapter "Separation & Divorce."
- Family duty counsel (Provincial or Supreme), for some assistance on the day you have to appear in court.
- Family Justice Centres, to make an appointment with a family justice counsellor to discuss guardianship, parenting time, and support.
- Family LawLINE.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Stephen Wright, March 2017.|
|Legal Help for British Columbians © Cliff Thorstenson and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
In family law, the natural or adoptive father or mother of a child; may also include stepparents, depending on the circumstances and the applicable legislation; may include the donors of eggs or sperm and surrogate mothers, depending on the circumstances and the terms of any assisted reproduction agreement. See "adoptive parent," "natural parent," and "stepparent."
A term under the Family Law Act which describes the time a guardian has with a child and during which is responsible for the day to day care of the child. See "guardian."
A term under the Family Law Act that describes the visitation rights of a person, who is not a guardian, with a child. Contact may be provided by court order or by the agreement among the child's guardians who have parental responsibility for determining contact. See "guardian" and "parental responsibilities."
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
A dispute resolution process in which a specially-trained neutral person facilitates discussions between the parties to a legal dispute and helps them reach a compromise settling the dispute. See "alternative dispute resolution" and "family law mediator."
The processes used to conclusively resolve legal disputes including negotiation, collaborative settlement processes, mediation, arbitration, and litigation.
With respect to courts, the authority of the court to hear an action and make orders; the limits of the authority of a particular judicial official; the geographic location of a court; the territorial limits of a court's authority. With respect to governments, the authority of a government to make legislation as determined by the constitution; the limits of authority of a particular government agency. See “constitution."
The legal termination of a valid marriage by an order of a judge; the ending of a marital relationship and the conjugal obligations of each spouse to the other. See "conjugal rights," "marriage," and "marriage, validity of."
A term under the Family Law Act referring to property acquired by either or both spouses during their relationship, as well as after separation if bought with family property. Both spouses are presumed to be equally entitled to share in family property. See "excluded property."
A mandatory direction of the court, binding and enforceable upon the parties to a court proceeding. An "interim order" is a temporary order made following the hearing of an interim application. A "final order" is a permanent order, made following the trial of the court proceeding or the parties' settlement, following which the only recourse open to a dissatisfied party is to appeal. See "appeal," "consent order," "decision," and "declaration."
A person appointed by the federal or provincial government to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government, or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, subject to appeal.
In law, an answer or rebuttal to a claim made or a defence raised by the other party to a court proceeding or legal dispute. See "action," "claim," "defence," and "rebut."
A lawyer or a person other than a lawyer who helps clients with legal issues; to argue a position on behalf of a client.
In law, a court proceeding; a lawsuit; an action; a cause of action; a claim. Also the historic decisions of the court. See "action," "case law, " "court proceeding," and "precedent."