Lots of couples who separate sort out their family law issues by making a written separation agreement.
You can also complete MyLawBC's Make a separation plan pathway to get links to online tools that can help you and the other person create your own separation agreement online without meeting face to face.
Once you've signed an agreement, it's a legal document.
If someone doesn't do what the agreement says, the law says:
- they're breaching (not following) the agreement, and
- you have a right to try to get them to do what the agreement says (called enforcing the agreement).
But if they only breach one part of the agreement, the rest of it's still valid.
For example, if your spouse doesn't pay child or spousal support, you can't stop them from having the parenting time or contact with a child the agreement says they can have.
Do you need to file your agreement?
If you want to be able to enforce your agreement, you have to file it at the court registry.
You can do this at the Provincial Court or the Supreme Court.
- See Do you need to go to Provincial (Family) Court or Supreme Court? to choose which court to go to.
- Read our guide on how to file your agreement in the court you choose:
What can you do if the other person doesn't follow the agreement?
If the other person isn't following parts of the agreement, there are some things you can do. First, you can try to sort things out with the other person. You might be able to work it out. Enforcement in court isn't the only option (especially since it can take a lot of time and money and be stressful).
The things you can do depend on:
- what type of agreement the other person isn't following, and
- what part of it they aren't following.
Expand the heading that describes your situation to find out more.
Sometimes parents or guardians don't do what it says in parenting agreements or orders. For example:
- A parent might not show up to care for a child as agreed or ordered. This is called failure to exercise parenting time or contact.
- One parent might not let the other parent spend time with the child. This is called denial of parenting time or contact.
If you tried sorting out the problem with the other person and that hasn't helped, you'll probably have to go to court to enforce the order or agreement if:
- the other parent doesn't follow parts of the agreement or order over and over again, or
- you keep having to change your plans at the last minute or pay for things you didn't expect to because the other parent isn't following parts of the agreement or order.
To find out more about what might happen if you go to court, see What happens if you don't follow a parenting agreement or order?
If you decide you want to go to court, see Enforce an order or agreement to find out what to do next.
If your agreement says that one of you will pay the other person child or spousal support, and the payor stops paying the full amount, the unpaid amount is called arrears.
- even if the payor isn't making their child support payments, you can't stop them from having parenting time or contact with the child, and
- if you're the payor, you can't stop paying child support just because there are issues about parenting time or contact.
If you have a written agreement or order that says you're entitled to child or spousal support, you can enforce support payments on your own, but it's complicated. Instead, you can sign up with the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). It's a provincial government program that tracks and collects on maintenance orders and agreements for child or spousal support.
If you enrol in FMEP, FMEP will help you get your support payments from the payor, including any arrears. You'll probably find it less stressful if you let them deal with it.
If someone doesn’t follow the parts of an agreement about property and debt, you can bring an application to enforce the agreement in Supreme Court.
This can be more complicated. Ask a lawyer for advice about this. See Tips about getting legal help for where to find a lawyer.
Try to think about how things will be, not how they were, should be, or could've been.