Some Provincial Court registries in BC don’t have any special requirements before you can file an application about family law issues. However, the following steps are useful to take, and it’s a good idea to take some of them even if they aren’t required in your court registry.
Family justice counsellors are a great source of information and education. A parenting education course can help parents stay focussed on the best interests of their children. Consensual dispute resolution (such as mediation) can help you cooperate to find a solution to your issues without having to go to court. Family lawyers can provide legal information and advice, and are trained to help people work together to find agreement. And community organizations offer important help with non-legal issues.
Family justice counsellors (FJCs) are trained mediators. Mediators don't make decisions or tell you what to do. They encourage you to listen to each other and help you come up with ideas for sorting out your problems in ways that work for you both.
FJCs can help you both work together to solve your separation issues for free. They provide:
- information about the court process, child support guidelines, and parenting education programs
- help with reaching and making an agreement about family issues such as guardianship, parenting arrangements, contact, and child and spousal support
- referrals to emergency services, community services, and legal services
- emotional support and short-term counselling
If you have children, FJCs will help you make decisions that are in the children's best interests. They can also refer you to a child support officer to negotiate a child or spousal support agreement.
FJCs work at Family Justice Centres across BC and are available by phone. Call Service BC at the numbers below to find a FJC.
604-660-2421 (Greater Vancouver)
1-800-663-7867 (elsewhere in BC)
Any parents with children under 19 can take a short online course called Parenting After Separation or Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families.
The purpose of the course to help you deal with the difficulties of co-parenting after separation. It gives you tools and practical tips on how to communicate with the other parent and how to focus on the best interests of your children. You’ll also learn about the impact of separation on children and ways to reduce any harmful effects.
See Parenting After Separation course for more information.
You may want to consider consensual dispute resolution before filing an application about a family law issue. The goal of dispute resolution (such as mediation) is to help you find a faster solution to your issues and stay out of court. If this is a safe and reasonable option for you, it may keep you from having to go to court.
Family justice counsellors (FJCs) provide free family law mediation and help with making an agreement. If you resolve your issues, you’ll get help to file an agreement, or apply for a consent order, or write up a Memorandum of Understanding document and be referred to further legal advice. You won’t need to attend a family management conference. See Talk to a family justice counsellor above.
You can use the free FJC services, or you can try other free services:
MyLawBC's Family Resolution Centre provides free online mediators to help you and your ex-spouse write parenting and child support arrangements.
The BC Collaborative Roster Society offers a free program for people going through separation or divorce who want to hire collaborative family lawyers but can't afford to.
You can also pay for private options, which are still usually a lot cheaper than going to court. You can hire:
- a private family law mediator
- family lawyers (you would each need your own)
- private collaborative family law lawyers (and others) using a special team approach
For more information about all these options, see Who can help you reach an agreement?
Telephone service for legal aid applications and referrals to other services
Service providers throughout BC who provide legal information and referrals to services such as legal aid
Province-wide telephone help line provided by government that can connect you to a victim service worker or program in your area
Battered Women’s Support Services
Emotional support, information, and referrals.
604-687-1867 (Greater Vancouver)
1-855-687-1868 (elsewhere in BC)
Ending Violence Association of BC
Information and referrals for services around BC.
A community worker or advocate can help you find solutions to your legal issues. To find a community worker in your area, see the websites below. Or contact your local library to find a community group that can help you.
Multicultural organizations may know interpreters, lawyers, or counsellors who speak your language.
Organization that provides free legal help to young people for problems related to family law, child protection, and many other legal issues.
QMUNITY is a BC centre for the LGBTQ/2S community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit). It provides free counselling, social and support groups, and other services
The Clicklaw website has links to legal information, education, and help for British Columbians. Here, you can find out about your rights and options to solve legal problems, find phone numbers for law-related help, and learn about family law and the legal system.