Family Law

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Divorce and Separation

The expertise of our family law lawyers includes a wide spectrum of family related issues. The breakdown of a spousal relationship can lead to multiple issues including the care of children, support, and division of property. A wide range of options are available including mediation, arbitration, settlement negotiation, or litigation. Our lawyers will guide you in a sensitive and effective manner through what can be a very difficult and emotional time.

Child Custody, Guardianship and Parenting Schedules

When separating parties have children, the parties must give special consideration to the best interests of the children. There are many different models for parenting arrangements and responsibilities, and no two cases are exactly the same. Our lawyers are experienced in this area of law under both the federal Divorce Act (Canada) and the provincial Family Law Act. We will assist you in setting up a parenting schedule that will work for the needs of your family’s situation.

Separation Agreements

After the breakdown of a spousal relationship, many parties choose to resolve the issues by signing a separation agreement. Such an agreement is a contract between spouses and it can deal with all matters except for a formal divorce. Our lawyers are experienced in preparing separation agreements and will assist you with drafting an agreement customized to your particular circumstances.

Child Support

With the rise of the “modern family”, obligations and entitlement have become increasingly complex and contentious. The concept of the “Trust” has been expanded greatly by the Supreme Court of Canada over the past 20 years. British Columbia is one of the few provinces that creates a statutory requirement for will makers to provide for a spouse and child. This has led to an explosion in estate litigation. The litigation team at Johns Southward has extensive experience in dealing with difficult and disputed estates. We will work with you to ensure you receive your full entitlement.

Spousal Support

Depending on the specific factors involved, there may be an obligation for one party to pay spousal support to the other after the breakdown of a relationship. The determination of entitlement to spousal support is based on numerous factors which our lawyers will evaluate in any given situation. If the parties have children, the child support obligation will be calculated first, followed by the spousal support obligation. If there are no children, then the spousal support is calculated on its own. If a claim for entitlement to spousal support is established, then the amount and duration of support will generally be calculated using the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines. Our lawyers have the expertise to prepare these calculations and advise you accordingly, whether you are the party paying or receiving support.

Marriage and Cohabitation Agreements

When contemplating marriage or cohabitation with another person, many people find themselves asking whether or not they need an agreement to protect their interests and assets before entering into the relationship. These agreements are commonly referred to by a variety of terms, including family law agreements, pre-nuptial agreements, marriage agreements, or cohabitation agreements. Many people at this stage do not want to think about the possibility of their relationship ending at some point in the future. However, if you have concerns about preserving your assets, it is important to think about these considerations before entering the relationship. Our lawyers are experienced in drafting these agreements and will help guide you through each step of the process.

Family Law Mediation

An alternative to having a court decide family law matters is family law mediation which is a process during which parties make their best efforts to negotiate an agreement with the help of a neutral third party: a family law mediator. Our firm’s family law mediator is a lawyer-mediator who can help resolve issues arising from the breakdown of a relationship and can create legally binding agreements based on this consensual process that keeps the outcome in the hands of the parties.

Property Division

Division of property between spouses in British Columbia, whether legally married or living common law, is governed by the Family Law Act. Some assets are considered to be family property, while others are excluded property and are not divided between the parties. Our lawyers will advise you with respect to your rights and obligations relating to all assets and debts, whether your situation is straightforward or complex. Because the Family Law Act has only been in place in British Columbia since 2013, this is a developing area of law and our lawyers follow the updates in case law on an ongoing basis.

Protection Orders

Regrettably, family violence is often a factor that leads to the breakdown of a relationship. In other cases, family violence occurs because one or more of the parties reacts inappropriately at the time the relationship ends. In such situations, the parties at risk will need to know their rights in regard to personal safety as well as the safety of children in their care. In British Columbia the Family Law Act gives the court the express authority to make various orders that help protect families, and these orders must now be in a specified format known as a Protection Order. Our lawyers will provide you with advice in these difficult situations and recommend options that are available when safety concerns arise.