At the end of a relationship, you need to make decisions about a number of key issues (See Chapter 2). You need to have an agreement about how you and your former spouse will work things out as you each move forward with your lives.
It’s not easy, but most couples manage to reach an agreement without going to court. In the previous section, you learned that a primary reason to try to work things out without going to court is that this allows you to maintain control over the decisions that affect your life.
You and your former spouse may continue to have a relationship as parents to your children and will need to work together to coordinate parenting arrangements and resolve future parenting issues. Coming to an agreement together promotes a cooperative relationship and helps build skills and confidence in your ability to solve problems together.
Of course, working things out also saves time and money, compared to going to court. Really, there are a lot of reasons to find a way to settle things without going to court. But it’s never easy and most people need help.
You and your former spouse may be able to work out some of the details of your separation, but not all of the issues. On the other hand, maybe you can’t even get started. Perhaps one or both of you are just not emotionally ready to start talking. Maybe you need help understanding financial matters or maybe you need help to understand your legal rights.
Fortunately, in British Columbia, there are a lot or services and resources to help spouses work through a separation. This section provides information that you can use to help you work through your separation.
Family Justice Counsellors can tell you about the law, but only a lawyer can give you legal advice.
Family Justice Counsellors are trained professionals who work with separating and divorcing people. Their goal is to help spouses reach agreement, without going to court. They work to help both parties solve problems and reach an agreement.
Family Justice Counsellors can:
These services are free at Family Justice Centres, which are located all over the province of British Columbia.
A mediator is a neutral third party that helps facilitate discussions between you and your former spouse and helps you resolve your disputes. Mediation is a practical, affordable, flexible, and confidential process where the decision about the terms of your agreement is made by you and your former spouse, not the mediator. Mediation is a legally binding alternative to going to court.
Lawyers can help you negotiate a settlement, draft an agreement, or just provide you with legal advice. An advantage of having a lawyer is their legal expertise and ability to assess your case. Lawyers can help you understand the complex issues that are involved in your case and how best to tackle them. You may wish to have a lawyer guide you through the whole process or just assist you with a certain aspect of your settlement. For example, you could hire a lawyer just to draft the agreement after you have already reached consensus on the issues or just to help split your assets. This is often called unbundled legal services or limited retainers.
Keep in mind that hiring a lawyer gets expensive quickly. Some family law cases can take years to get through the courts. You may not be able to afford a lawyer and you may only be able to afford unbundled legal services. Chapter 4 will go into detail about how to get legal help.
Another option is to hire a Collaborative Law Lawyer. Collaborative law is a process, where you, your former spouse, and your lawyers make a formal commitment to resolve the dispute without going to court and agree to be open and honest. The collaborative process can involve other specialists who can help you come to an agreement, such as child specialists who give advice to the parties and their lawyers about the child’s needs and how the child is experiencing their separation.
Collaborative Law Lawyers can:
Arbitrators play a private judge-like role. A family law arbitrator will make binding decisions to resolve family law issues out of court. Sometimes arbitrators will use a combination of arbitration and collaborative processes to help you come to your own agreement. But if you fail to agree you lose the control over how issues are to be resolved and the arbitrator makes the decision for you. Before you begin, everyone must agree in writing to how the arbitration is to be conducted.
If you already have an agreement or order regarding children but are having disagreements about implementing them, a parenting coordinator can help. Parenting coordinators are professionals who can help you resolve day-to-day conflicts about parenting agreements or parenting orders.
Parenting Coordinator can:
Where to find them?
Access Pro Bono
Family Duty Counsel
Lawyer Referral Service
Domestic Violence help
Family Justice Counsellors