A common-law breakup: splitting up property

When Jake and Sarah broke up, they realized they've got a lot of decisions to make. They have to divide everything they accumulated together over the years, but have no idea where to start. Many common-law couples (couples who have lived together in a marriage-like relationship for at least 2 years have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples) will need to divide their property. If they can't agree how to divide it, they might even end up in court.

Family property is almost everything either you or your partner own together or separately on the date you separate, including your family home, investments, bank accounts, and more. It doesn't matter whose name the property is in.

Property division laws are the same for both married and common-law couples: unless you have a written and signed agreement that says otherwise, all family property will be divided equally. A court will only order a different division if it would be considered “significantly unfair” to do otherwise (this decision considers things such as the length of relationship, and if other agreements were made). Note, you must apply to divide family property within 2 years of the date you separated.

There are exceptions to these divisions, called excluded property, which you don't have to split equally. This includes property you owned before the relationship started, and gifts and inheritances given during the relationship.

There are many resources and services available to help you divide your property and avoid going to court. Some services are free if you have low income. Please visit familylaw.lss.bc.ca and mylawbc.com for more information.

Family lawLegal Aid
Hot Off the Press- Sponsorship Breakdown

The new English version of Sponsorship Breakdown is now available in Arabic, Farsi, Punjabi, Spanish, simplified and traditional Chinese, and (online only) French.

Sponsorship Breakdown was revised in the fall of 2017 to reflect changes to immigration law — most importantly, the elimination of conditional permanent resident status. This booklet is for permanent residents who need help when their sponsor stops supporting them.

Hot Off the Press: Living Together or Living Apart

We revised and reprinted the English version of our popular booklet Living Together or Living Apart: Common-law relationships, marriage, separation, and divorce.

Living Together or Living Apart explains the basics of family law in BC. It includes information about:

· your rights and responsibilities if you’re married or in a marriage-like relationship,

· how spouses can work out agreements,

· how to work out arrangements for parenting if you have children,

· what to do if you decide to separate or divorce, and

· how to sort out money matters.

It also explains your legal options and where to get help, and includes a glossary of definitions.

We made the following changes to this edition:

· deleted the separate chapter on family law for Aboriginal readers and integrated that information throughout the booklet,

· revised information about making agreements and what guardianship means,

· moved the charts about agreement types and court order types from the Appendix to the section on going to court; and

· to increase readability, printed the booklet in a larger size, used a second colour (green) on inside pages, and added three new original drawings to illustrate family law situations.

Living Together or Living Apart is available in print and online. Please recycle previous English editions.

Family lawLegal Aid
Hot Off the Press – For Your Protection

Back in stock with a whole new look: we’ve redesigned and updated the translations of our popular publication, For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders, to match the current English version.

For the first time, we now have a Farsi edition as well as the revised Punjabi and Chinese (simplified and traditional) booklets. The updated French version (online only) will be available shortly. The others are available now in print and online.

For Your Protection explains in plain language how and when people can apply for peace bonds and family law protection orders, and the differences between the two. The booklet is published in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General.

This publication is available for order on the Crown Publications website.

Hot Off the Press- Family Law in BC: Quick Reference Tool

We have updated and reprinted the Chinese (simplified and traditional) translations of this popular set of postcards.

This tool introduces readers to the basics of family law and includes more comprehensive resources. Each card covers one legal aspect of separation such as:

  • which laws apply,

  • how couples can reach agreements, and

  • how to deal with issues involving children and money

The booklets are available to order on the Crown Publications website.

Family lawLegal Aid
Consumer and Debt Law

The Consumer and Debt Law is a problem-solving manual for advocates and other legal professionals who help clients with consumer or debt problems.

Over 45 topics are covered, including problems people experience with consumer purchases, contracts, borrowing money, and being in debt.

Each section includes sample client problems, summary of the relevant law, recap of information needed from clients, and suggestions for solving the client’s problems.

It is available as a Clicklaw Wikibook and in a limited print run.

 As a wikibook:

·       the online version is fully linked to legislation, forms, and cases,

·       the manual is mobile friendly, and

·       a print-on-demand copy is available to order.

This manual replaces Consumer Law and Credit/Debt Law, which was published by the Legal Services Society.

New service for clients with financial security issues

Effective October 30, 2018, the Legal Services Society will implement a new limited representation contract for a trial period, where counsel may provide unbundled services to clients with financial security issues, including child and spousal support and preservation and/or division of family property. The contracts are intended to provide clients with the assistance necessary to effectively negotiate a settlement or represent themselves.

Limited representation contracts will include up to 15 hours preparation, including limited court-based case conference attendance. Unbundling legal services, where counsel provide legal services for part of a client’s legal matter, allows clients to access some legal help where they would otherwise not be eligible for legal aid representation.

Legal aidLegal Aid
Legal aid now available to help children stay out of foster care

Sometimes a grandparent, aunt, uncle or other relative is willing to care for a child who is at risk of going into foster care, or has been removed from their home already -- because the parents are unable to care for them. In foster care, however, children often lose touch of the things that matter most: their family, culture and community. That’s why the Legal Services Society (LSS) is now providing lawyer services to relatives who would like to care for a child on a temporary or permanent basis. Community members with a cultural or traditional responsibility towards a child may also be eligible.

The intent of the new service is to keep children out of foster care whenever possible. In some cases, we can provide lawyers for collaborative processes before or at the same time as the child’s family is involved in a court action. If relatives and community members can’t resolve the matter of caring for a child out of court, the service may include a lawyer’s assistance in court.

Relatives and community members who want to become caregivers may be eligible for this service if they meet LSS’s financial and coverage guidelines. To apply, contact the nearest legal aid office or call LSS at 1-866-577-2525 or 604-408-2172.

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More people with child protection matters will now be financially eligible for legal aid

The Legal Services Society (LSS) has increased the financial eligibility guidelines for child protection services. This is to improve the accessibility of legal aid when a child has been removed or is at risk of being removed from their home by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

LSS provides lawyers to about 2,300 people with child protection cases each year. With its severe consequences on families, LSS is hoping the higher income cut-off will mean more people get a lawyer’s assistance when there are concerns that a child is in need of protection.

The financially eligibility guidelines for child protection (CFCSA) matters have increased by $1000 for each household size. The change became effective as of September 27, 2018. See the new income chart here.

By increasing the guidelines, LSS now has consistent financial eligibility criteria for all its child protection representation services, including LSS’s Parents Legal Centres.

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Gladue Reports Graphic Novel Focus Group

The Legal Services Society (Legal Aid BC) is working with the Healthy Aboriginal Network to create a story about Gladue reports in the form of a graphic novel and video.

Under the Criminal Code, people who identify as Aboriginal have Gladue rights. These rights encourage judges to take a restorative justice approach to sentencing that helps both the offender and community heal. The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that judges must look at how Indigenous offenders’ lives have been affected by colonialism and systemic racism and must consider sentences other than jail to repair the harm a crime has done.

You're invited to watch the focus group short and provide feedback. The videos are made from the rough storyboards, so that after focus group testing and feedback, the story and illustrations can be edited easily and cheaply. After you watch the video, please think about what you liked the most/least and if the story, situation, and characters seemed realistic to you.

Please email your feedback to sean@thehealthyaboriginal.net.

AboriginalLegal Aidvideo, Gladue, comic
MyLawBC’s Dialogue Tool improved

MyLawBC’s Dialogue Tool has been updated.

The Dialogue Tool helps you create a separation agreement that addresses your family’s needs. You start with an intake process where both you and your ex answer questions about your situation and set out your ideas for the future. Once you’ve both finished this step the system looks at your answers and creates a custom template separation agreement for you to fill out and complete.

Since MyLawBC’s launch we have been gathering feedback about the Dialogue Tool from both real world users and in user testing sessions. Based on this feedback we’ve made a number of improvements to the tool. Some of those changes are to the backend of the tool and may not be readily apparent. Here are some that you might notice:

  • The questions asked during the intake process have been rearranged to follow an order that users thought was more natural.

  • The legal clauses that are given to users have been updated to make them easier to understand.

  • A new section was added to show the original text of the legal clauses in the template so you can refer back to it after you have edited them.

We’ve heard a lot of positive things about the Dialogue Tool and we hope with these changes we’ll hear even more. You can try out the improved Dialogue Tool or learn more about it on MyLawBC.com.

Reimbursement of deductions from disability or income assistance of methadone patients

The Government of BC has agreed to pay back $5.7 million that was deducted from the disability or income assistance cheques of 11,700 methadone treatment patients between November 2009 and July 2016. 8,000 people currently on disability and income assistance who were affected by these deductions will automatically receive a monthly cheque of up to $150 until the amounts are paid back. However, there are around 4,000 people who were methadone patients and used to receive disability and income assistance but no longer receive it, who should also be compensated.


Methadone patients who were receiving disability and income assistance between November 2009 and July 2016 can register for payment by contacting Gratl and Company, the law firm who argued the case on behalf of methadone patients. See the Gratl and Company website for more information about how to make a claim.

Increased funding for Gladue reports

This year, the Legal Services Society has increased funding available for Gladue reports.

Under the criminal code, people who identify as Aboriginal have Gladue rights. These rights encourage judges to take a restorative justice approach to sentencing that helps both the offender and community heal. The Supreme Court of Canada has confirmed that judges must look at how Indigenous offenders’ lives have been affected by colonialism and systemic racism and must consider sentences other than jail to repair the harm a crime has done.

A Gladue report helps the judge take into account Gladue rights during sentencing or when setting bail. Legal aid lawyers can request funding for the production of these reports. For more information about legal aid Gladue reports, please contact us at gladue.coordinator@lss.bc.ca.

You can learn more about Gladue rights and Gladue reports on the Aboriginal Legal Aid in BC website and from our Gladue publications (scroll down to see them all).

Hot Off the Press - If You're Charged with a Crime
If You're Charged wih a Crime cover

We updated this easy-to-understand brochure with revised content, including a section highlighting our new Aboriginal publications.

If You’re Charged with a Crime outlines:

  • what happens when someone is charged with a criminal offence,

  • the first steps in the court process and the options available,

  • the accused person’s legal rights, and

  • how to get legal aid or other legal help.

Previous editions of this brochure are no longer current; please recycle.

Wrapping Our Ways Around Them

Wrapping Our Ways Around Them is a new plain language guidebook that focuses on how Aboriginal communities and parents can be involved in child welfare issues. It empowers communities to participate in the child protection process to keep children culturally connected and to help families heal.

The guidebook:

  • explains how Aboriginal communities and parents can be involved in child welfare decisions outside of court and at court;
  • outlines the child welfare process; and
  • defines an Aboriginal child and their human rights, including protecting their cultural identity.

Wrapping Our Ways Around Them is produced by the Nlaka’pamus Nation Tribal Council’s ShchEma-mee.tkt (Our Children) Project and is available online as a PDF.

Hot Off the Press: If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Child Protection Case

If You Can’t Get Legal Aid for Your Child Protection Case is now back in stock, and you can order it from Crown Publications.

This booklet is for people facing a complicated child protection hearing who’ve been denied legal aid and can’t afford a lawyer.

It explains why you can ask for a court-appointed lawyer and how to apply. It includes the forms you need, what you should say to the judge in court, and where to get legal help and other support.

Updates to this new edition include:

  • a glossary with frequently used words and phrases,
  • restructured content for a more logical, step-by-step approach,
  • redefined terminology,
  • improved forms instructions,
  • more cross-references to forms, and
  • graphics to improve accessibility.

Previous editions are no longer current; please recycle.