Many Provincial (Family) Court registries in BC are parenting education program registries. Unless you’re in Kelowna, Nanaimo, Surrey, Vancouver, or Victoria, your registry is a parenting education program registry. In these registries, parents with children under 19 have to complete a (free) short online parenting course (see exceptions below).
The Parenting After Separation or Parenting After Separation for Indigenous Families course helps parents 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 how separation can affect you and your children, and ways to reduce any harmful effects.
You’ll have to complete a parenting course after you’ve separated if you’ve filed (or replied to) a court application about:
- guardianship of a child,
- parenting time,
- parenting responsibilities,
- child support and/or spousal support, or
- contact with a child,
If you have to take the course, you have to show the registry that you’ve completed it before you can get a court date for your family management conference.
When you don’t have to take the course
- you need to prevent children from being relocated
- you want the court to enforce a court order or filed agreement
- your only issue is spousal support
- your children are all over 19, or
- you’ve already completed it in the last two years.
You can ask to be excused from the program if:
- you don't have access to the Internet to take the online course,
- you aren't fluent in English,
- you have trouble reading,
- you can't attend because you have serious health problems, or
- a consent order covering all the issues about the children has been filed.
You ask to be excused by submitting a Notice of Exemption from parenting education program (Form 20) to the Family Justice Services Division of the Ministry of Attorney General. You must then file the approved Notice of Exemption before you can attend a family management conference.
You show that you've completed this parenting education step by filing your certificate of completion at the registry (or your approved Notice of Exemption).
See Parenting After Separation course for more information.
Before you go to court
It's a good idea to make use of the resources described below even if they aren’t required in your court registry.
- Family justice counsellors are a great source of information and education.
- Dispute resolution (such as working with a mediator) can help you and the other person work together 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.
- Community organizations offer important help with non-legal issues.
See the links below for more information:
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 to find an FJC.
604-660-2421 (Greater Vancouver)
1-800-663-7867 (elsewhere in BC)
After you've completed the parenting course, the registry can schedule a family management conference for you. But you might first want to think about consensual dispute resolution. The goal of dispute resolution (for example, mediation) is to help you find a solution to your issues and avoid having to go to court. If this is a safe and reasonable option for you, it might mean you don’t have to go to court.
Family justice counsellors (FJCs) provide free family law mediation and help with making an agreement. You might need to provide financial information before this meeting using a Financial Statement (Form 4). 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:
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
- 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.
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.
Multicultural organizations might know interpreters, lawyers, or counsellors who speak your language.
If your family law case is in Kamloops, and your case appears to be heading to trial, a judge may offer you the option of an “informal trial.” See Informal trials - Kamloops court registry.