My Partner Is Abusing Me and My Kids
| 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 Family Violence.
Both the criminal law process and family law process can be used to deal with relationship violence and abuse. There are also a number of services in most BC communities, such as transition houses, victim assistance programs and counselling services, to help victims of violence.
- Ensure that you and your children are safe. This may mean leaving the family home for awhile and staying with friends or staying in a transition house. To find a local transition house, try a Google search for "transition house" plus your community — e.g., "transition house victoria bc." Alternatively, look in the Yellow Pages under "Crisis Centres," or contact VictimLINK. The local police station can also give you information about transition houses and other victim services.
- Consider whether you need a safety plan. A safety plan outlines steps you can take to protect yourself and your children. Having a safety plan means you know how to get help if your partner is abusing you. It is a good idea to ask a friend, advocate, or victim service worker to help you make a safety plan. For information on making a safety plan, see "Live Safe — End Abuse: Safety Planning."
- If the abuse involves physical or sexual violence, consider reporting it to the police. Staff at local transition houses and victim services groups can support you in doing this. If you want the abuser to stay away from you, you can ask the police to ask a judge for a no contact order to prevent or limit the abuser from having contact with you or your children. Ask the police to give you contact information for a victim services worker.
- If you need a lawyer but cannot afford one on your own, see if you qualify for legal aid representation. If you qualify, the Legal Services Society will appoint a lawyer to advise you and represent you in Family Court. Victims are not usually entitled to representation by lawyers in criminal court.
- You or your lawyer can make an application to the Family Court or BC Supreme Court for an order preventing or limiting the abuser from having contact with you and/or your children. You can take this step instead of or in addition to reporting the abuse to the police. Follow the process described under "I just separated from the other parent of my children" in this Guide.
What happens next
If a criminal charge has been laid, the abuser will be given a date to appear in Provincial Criminal Court. At this first appearance, the abuser (called "the accused" in court) can ask for a copy of both the charge and the report from the police to the Crown Counsel. (The Crown Counsel is the lawyer who prosecutes the case against the abuser on behalf of the government.) You do not need to have your own lawyer in Criminal Court. You are considered a witness and you should speak with the Crown Counsel before court so they know whether or not you want the judge to order that the accused can have contact with you or your children until the case is completed. For more information on what happens after criminal charges have been laid, see "I've been charged with a criminal offence and have to go to court" in this Guide.
If you have completed an Application to Obtain an Order and a Notice of Motion in Provincial Court, and asked the judge for a "without notice" order (a court appearance without the abuser being there), you will be given a time and date to be in court. At court, the judge will ask you why you want no contact from the abuser. If the judge agrees with you, he or she will make a (called a Protection Order) valid for up to a year (but not longer). After the without notice Protection Order is made, the Family Court will send a copy to the abuser. Service of the judge's Protection Order will be handled for you, without cost to you.
Where to get help
See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- BC Society of Transition Houses and VictimLINK.
- 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 spousal abuse.
- Family LawLINE.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
- The Clicklaw common question "A woman is being abused by her partner. What legal help can she get?".
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 dwelling occupied by a family as their primary residence. See "family property" and "real property."
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 lawyer or a person other than a lawyer who helps clients with legal issues; to argue a position on behalf of a client.
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.
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
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."
In law, the federal and provincial governments and their departments and agencies. Lawyers employed by the federal and provincial governments to prosecute criminal offences.
A person with direct, personal knowledge of facts and events; a person giving oral evidence in court on oath or affirmation as to the truth of the evidence given. See "affirm," "evidence," "oath," and "opinion evidence."
A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family court proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."
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."