Marriage Separation Advice for Women

Some people might believe the family law regime favours women. This is not true. In fact, it has historically disadvantaged women but this is changing. The Family Law Act was introduced in 2013 with sweeping changes to the law on separation that strive to improve equality rights for women, as well as non-traditional families such as those in the LGBTQ community and polyamorous families. In this article, “Marriage Separation Advice for Women” we look at some of the issues specifically faced by women during a divorce.

Am I Entitled to Spousal Support?

In relationships it is common for one partner to put their career on hold and prioritize taking care of the children, giving the other partner freedom to make strides in their career and become the principal breadwinner for the family. Often times it is the woman in the relationship who puts her career on hold.

The courts recognize that this puts women in a disadvantageous position following a separation. While their male partner may have had 10 or 20 years to advance in their careers, the woman’s career has essentially stagnated, significantly reducing her earning potential in comparison with her male partner.

Spousal support can help equalize the economic burden women face following a separation. The amount of spousal support you may be entitled to will depend on the length of your relationship, the difference between you and your ex’s incomes, and a number of other factors. For an estimate of how much spousal support you may be entitled to, please visit our Spousal Support Calculator. Remember that the law applies equally to men and women with respect to spousal support. If you earn more money than your spouse, he will be equally entitled to spousal support. For a more accurate figure that takes into consideration your unique circumstances, we encourage you to contact our firm for a consultation.

Caring for the Children after Separation

There is a common misconception that women are legally expected to take on more of the childcare responsibilities or are entitled to a greater share of parenting time following a separation. This may have been true at one time when women were seen as possessing an irreplaceable motherly touch, and the courts preferred that young children reside primarily with their mothers.

Today, however, men and women are expected to care for their children following a separation. The sole focus of the courts is the “best interests of the children” and in the court’s view, this means maximum involvement of both parents in the children’s lives where appropriate.

Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, despite advancements in the family law regime, women remain disproportionately victims of family violence. It is estimated that one in five Canadian women experience some form of violence in their relationships (source: Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile 2011, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada, page 5). It is important to seek help if there is family violence. Remember that if your partner has instigated violence against you, this is not your fault and if you have children, you have a duty to protect them from any further violence. Even when violence is not directed towards children, witnessing violence can have devastating effects on a child. Children tend to be more observant than we realize and will undoubtedly become aware of the violence, if not already.

Fortunately, there are legal remedies that can help protect you and your children from an abusive partner. You may wish to apply for a court order to get exclusive possession of your family home and a protection order preventing your spouse from communicating with you and your children and from visiting the children’s schools or daycare centres. For more information on legal remedies to protect your children, see our article “10 Divorce Tips to Protect Your Children”.

There are many support services available to women and children who are victims of family violence. Remember that you are not alone. Here are some additional resources:

Victim Link BC:

Ending Violence Association of BC:

The BC Society of Transition Houses:

We hope this article “Marriage Separation Advice for Women” helps answer your questions about divorce and separation. If you are a woman who is going through a divorce and would like to make sure that your specific needs are met or have concerns about domestic violence, please contact MJ O’Nions for legal assistance at 604-449-7779.

10 Tips to Make Divorce Easier for Children

Divorce is a confusing time for children. They may have some understanding of what is going on depending on their age. They may have friends whose parents have gone through divorce and will relate to the experience through stories those friends have told them. Yet regardless of their age, they will notice that the family dynamic has changed. Younger children might fear that the divorce will break the family apart and that it will cause them to see one or both parents less often. Older children might fear the stigma of becoming children of divorce or may resent one of the parents who they feel may be causing the divorce. It is important to think about how all of your interactions with your children and your ex-spouse can be made to lessen this confusion and provide a supporting and positive environment for your children’s growth.

Here are 10 tips to protect your children during divorce:

#1 Never speak badly of your ex to or in front of your children

Your children see themselves as half of their other parent. If they hear you speak negatively about their other parent, they may associate with these negative statements and internalize them, which may lower their self-esteem. It could also cause them to resent the other parent if these statements lead them to believe that parent is the reason for the divorce or that they hurt you, and they may wish to distance themselves from that parent as a result.

#2 Encourage your children to spend as much time as possible with their other parent

Children benefit from relationships with both parents. This is true even where one parent isn’t able to take on as much of an active parenting role as the other. Remember that while your relationship with your ex has ended, your children have a life-long relationship with their parent that is completely independent of yours.

#3 Don’t argue with your ex in front of your children, especially about parenting issues

Arguing with your ex-spouse in front of your children might cause them to believe that they are the source of the tension in your relationship. When parents divorce, children often assume that it is their fault. Arguing, especially over parenting issues such as pick up and drop off times, decisions about what the children may be allowed to do, and so on, can heighten this fear for the children.

#4 Strive to develop a cohesive set of parenting rules with your ex

Agreeing on parenting rules isn’t always easy and it may have been a constant source of argument while you were together, but working to reach an agreement on parenting rules doesn’t end when you split up. It’s important that your children have similar expectations from both parents when it comes to setting boundaries.

#5 Make sure you and your ex are on the same page when it comes to explaining to the children what’s going on

You and your spouse might have very different interpretations of what led to your divorce and assign different levels of blame to each other, but don’t allow this to harm your children. Before you speak to your children, discuss with your ex how you are going to explain the divorce and make sure your explanations are consistent. Avoid getting into details, be sure that your children understand it is not their fault and that you both love them just the same, and try to give them the impression that this is a positive decision that will benefit the whole family.

#6 Establish a new routine for your children

Once new living arrangements have been established, try to create a new routine for your children as early as possible. Part of the negative emotions children experience during a divorce relates to the fear of uncertainty. Establishing a routine will help calm their fears by introducing a new sense of normalcy into their lives.

#7 Encourage your children to continue with their extra-curriculars and hobbies

Continuing with their extra-curriculars and hobbies is another way to bring normalcy to your children’s daily lives during this time of transition. These activities are also a source of happiness for your children and may provide a creative outlet or way to expend their energy during a confusing time.

#8 Check in with your children to see how they are handling the divorce

If you have younger children and are concerned about how they are handling the divorce, ask their teachers or daycare supervisors if they have noticed any change in behaviour. This might help put your anxieties at rest, or if there is an issue, help you to identify it and address it before it becomes a problem. Teenagers may be reluctant to express their feelings about the divorce but if they suddenly start acting out or you notice changes in their behaviour, this could be an indicator that they are struggling with the divorce. You should encourage them to be honest with you about their feelings and create a safe space of non-judgment where they feel comfortable sharing.

#9 Ask for your children’s input wherever possible

Older children will likely have opinions about how they want to divide their time with each parent, and while you should still encourage your children to see their other parent as much as possible, you must also respect their choices. While this is not necessarily true for younger children, you can still seek their input by finding out how this new schedule is working for your children. Do the pick up and drop off times make it difficult for your children to do their homework; does it interfere with their ability to spend time with friends; are they exhausted by exchanges that are too frequent? Be prepared to listen and accommodate.

#10 Leave the door open for your children to continue a relationship with their step-parent

If your ex is not your children’s biological parent but a step-parent, consider that they and your children may wish to continue a relationship with each other. This may be especially true for older children who have developed a close bond with their step-parent and who depend on them for love and support. Losing a step-parent completely from their lives could be devastating and could cause them to resent you for not allowing or helping to facilitate a relationship with that parent.

We hope this article “10 Tips to Make Divorce Easier for Children” helps answer your questions about divorce. You can find helpful resources on our page “Resources for Helping Children Deal with Divorce and Separation.” Should you have any questions or require mediation services in developing a parenting plan that has your children’s interests at heart, please contact us at 604-449-7779.


10 Divorce Tips to Protect Your Children

#1 – Prevent an Abusive Partner from Contacting the Children

If you or your children are at risk of family violence, you can ask the court to issue a protection order against your former spouse. This order might ban your ex from having any contact with you and the children and from visiting them at their schools and other places where they spend time.

#2 – Prevent a Third Party from Contacting the Children

Your former partner may have a new partner or a relative living with them who you believe is a risk to your children. If this is the case, you can apply for a protection order banning that individual from having any contact with the children.

#3 – Sole Guardianship/Custody

Courts are generally reluctant to award sole guardianship/custody to a parent, as they take the view that children benefit from having both parents in their lives. However, there are some circumstances where it may be appropriate for the court to order sole guardianship/custody because it would be in the best interests of the children.

#4 – Exclusive Possession of the Family Home

Getting an order from the court for exclusive possession of the family home can help ensure that you and your children have a safe and stable place to stay during the separation or divorce proceedings. These orders are usually given on an interim (or temporary basis) until property division issues can be settled either by way of agreement between you and your spouse or by court judgment.

#5 – Drug and Alcohol Abuse

If you’re concerned that your ex has an alcohol or drug abuse issue that may harm the children, you can apply to the courts to have your ex monitored or required to submit to alcohol and drug testing. The courts may attach certain conditions to their rights to spend time with the children if they continue to use alcohol and drugs.

#6 – Guns and Weapons

If there are guns or other weapons in your ex’s house and you are concerned about the safety of the children when they are visiting the home, you can ask the police to remove those weapons.

#7 – Supervised Visits

If you would like your children to continue to see their other parent but are concerned that he or she is not ready for time alone with the children, you can ask the court to order supervised visits. The court might order that a relative, family friend, or volunteer from the Supervised Access Program supervise the visits.

#8– No Removal from Jurisdiction

If you’re concerned that your ex might try to take the children out of the jurisdiction without your permission, you can get a court order preventing them from doing so. Be sure to keep all of your children’s travel documents somewhere safe out of your ex’s control and if you are really concerned by this issue, consider asking the courts for supervised visits with your ex.

#9 – Ask for Court Orders on a Without Notice Basis

In some cases you might not want to alert your ex that you are seeking a court order against them, especially when you are fearful of how they may react to this notice. While in most cases, where an individual has a direct interest in a court proceeding they are entitled to notice ahead of the hearing, in family cases there are processes in place which allow you to bring an application against them without providing them notice.

#10 – Counselling for the Children

The effects of divorce, especially where there is domestic violence involved can have long lasting effects on a child’s growth and development. There are psychologists and counsellors who specialize in providing help to children during these troubling times. You may want to consider whether your child would benefit from this help. Click here for some more information on the topic and a roster of child counsellors who may be able to help.

Remember if you or your children are in immediate danger, call 911. If you are concerned that your partner, or someone in your ex’s life might be a danger to the children, contact the Ministry for Child and Family Development for assistance. We hope this article “10 Divorce Tips to Protect Your Children” helps answer your questions about how to protect your children during a divorce. Should you have any questions or require legal assistance with seeking any of the remedies described above, please contact us at 604-449-7779.

10 Divorce Facts That You Need to Know

As a family law lawyer with over 20 years of practice in Vancouver, I am frequently asked questions that suggest there is a lot of misinformation and myths about divorce. We would like to set these myths straight by providing you with “10 Divorce Facts That You Need to Know”.

#1 – You might be separated but not divorced. Even when you and your spouse have decided to end your relationship and no longer live as a married couple, you are not legally divorced until the court issues a divorce order. For an explanation on the difference between separation and divorce, see the article “Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?”.

#2 – The most common grounds for divorce is separation. To be granted a divorce, you and your spouse must have been living separate and apart for one year or more.

#3 – If you ended the relationship but have continued living in the same home, you may still be considered legally separated. Some of the factors a court might consider in making this determination include whether you have divided your bank accounts and expenses, whether you sleep together, whether you no longer share meals, and whether you no longer attend social events and family functions together.

#4 – Applying for divorce on the grounds of adultery can prove difficult and expensive, even where you have evidence of an affair.

#5 – Annulments are rarely granted by the courts, and are reserved for extreme circumstances and are typically sought for religious reasons.

#6 – Generally, spouses are entitled to 50% of all “family property” and are responsible for 50% of “family debts” unless an agreement between the spouses states otherwise or it would be unjust given the circumstances.

#7 – If you receive a gift or inheritance during your marriage, it should be excluded from your “family property” and not subject to equalization with your former spouse.

#8 – If you’re concerned that assets you held prior to your relationship could become subject to equalization upon separation, hold them in separate accounts and do not co-mingle them with family accounts or use them to purchase assets enjoyed by the whole family. However, be aware that any appreciation of, or income earned on those assets will be subject to equalization regardless of how you manage them.

#9 – If you and your spouse agree on the terms of your divorce, such as whether spousal support will be paid, how assets and debts will be divided and what the parenting arrangements will be, there is no need for a messy drawn out court battle. These issues can be resolved through a simple court application and/or separation agreement.

#10 – If your spouse has informed you that they would like a divorce, you cannot stop them from applying for one. So long as issues arising from the marriage have been dealt with, such as property division, spousal support, child support and parenting, the court will likely grant the divorce whether you agree to a divorce or not. There is no way to prevent a divorce by refusing to sign “divorce papers”. However, if you fail to respond to a Notice of Family Claim (i.e. the originating document that begins a divorce), the court will presume that you agree to all of the orders that your former spouse might be seeking, which might go well beyond a divorce order.

We hope this article, “10 Divorce Facts That You Need to Know” has helped to dispel some of the myths about divorce and answers your questions. Should you have any further questions or require help with applying for a divorce or drafting a separation agreement, please contact us at 604-449-7779.

What is a Legal Separation Agreement?

So you and your partner have decided to separate, what’s next? There is no legal action that you must take to separate from your spouse. However, if you and your former spouse have significant assets or debts, there is a substantial difference in your incomes, or you have children together, you may find it beneficial to deal with all or some of these issues by way of an agreement. We refer to this type of agreement as a separation agreement.

The Family Law Act is the law which governs separation in British Columbia for married spouses in all cases and unmarried spouses in some cases (i.e. couples living together in a marriage-like relationship for two years or more and couples who have children together).

Should you and your partner not be able to agree on such issues as; property division, spousal support, child support, or parenting then you may want to consider mediation or collaborative divorce to help resolve those issues.  Going to court to resolve outstanding issues should be a last resort, as going to court is expensive and adversarial.

Note that while a separation agreement can settle most matters, it does not cause you to be divorced and you must apply to the courts for a divorce order. For more information on the difference between divorce and separation, please see the article, “Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?”.

We hope this article helps answer your question “What is a Legal Separation Agreement?”. Should you have any questions or require help with drafting a separation agreement, please contact us at 604-449-7779.

Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?

You may have heard the terms “divorce” and “separation” and wondered whether they are one in the same or how they are different. You may be wondering whether you need to get a divorce and whether you already separated. This article “Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?” aims to clear up the confusion by breaking down the legal differences between each term.

 What is a Divorce?

A divorce is the legal process that terminates a marriage. If a divorce is granted you will receive a certificate recognizing the divorce. A divorce is only available to married couples. To get a divorce, there must be legal grounds for it. The most common grounds on which to file for a divorce is living separate and apart for one year or more from your partner or spouse.

If your relationship ended over a year ago but you have continued living in the same residence for economic reasons, you may still be able to apply for a divorce. When applying for a divorce, you can apply for other orders such as property division, spousal support, child support, and custody. You must file your application with the Supreme Court of BC, which can be done either solely by yourself or jointly with your ex-spouse if you agree on all the terms of the divorce. If you file solely, be prepared for your ex-spouse to contest your application. Should this happen, we recommend that you seek legal help.

What is a Separation?

Separation refers to when you start living separate and apart from your partner or spouse. A separation is the legal term for the end of a relationship. It is the prelude to a divorce if married or if you are living together, the end of the relationship. It applies equally to married couples and common law spouses. The date of separation is the date you started living separate and apart from your partner or spouse. This is usually when one partner communicated to the other, their intention to end the relationship. Despite common belief, you don’t actually have to take any other steps to become separated. However, we recommend preparing a separation agreement if you and your ex have significant assets or debts, there is a substantial difference in your incomes, or you have children together.

If you and your ex cannot agree on the terms of your separation, you may use the services of a mediator to help facilitate an agreement or apply to the courts for a decision. For more information on mediation, please visit our page “Family Mediation”. To find out more about separation agreements, please see our article “What is a Legal Separation Agreement?”.

 Why get a divorce?

You may be wondering why bother to get a divorce if you have already separated from your married partner or spouse.  You must get a divorce if you are planning to remarry. You cannot get married if you are still legally married to someone else. Otherwise, it is not necessary to get a divorce. However, some people find that it helps bring a sense of finality to the relationship so that both ex-spouses can more easily move on with the next stages of their lives.

We hope this article helps answer your questions “Divorce vs. Separation – What is the Difference?”. Should you have any questions or require help with applying for a divorce or drafting a separation agreement, please contact us at 604-449-7779.

How to Avoid Probate Fees

Benjamin Franklin once said “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” However, if he knew that Probate Fees must be paid in order to obtain a Grant of Probate or Administration, he might have added “Probate Fees” to his words. Was he wrong in not including Probate Fees to one of the things that are certain in this world? This article explores whether it is possible to avoid paying Probate Fees and if not, ways to minimize Probate Fees.

Continue reading →

What is Probate?

Have you ever heard phrases like “Probate an estate,” “Probate a Will,” “applying for Probate,” or “Grant of Probate”? Have you ever wondered what these phrases mean, whether they are referring to the same thing or whether they are referring to different things? If the answer is yes, you have come to the right place.

Continue reading →

What are the benefits of incorporation?

To a person living in the 19th century, an apple could have meant only one thing, the fruit. To Sir Isaac Newton, an apple meant the Universal Law of Gravitation. To us, or at least to me, an apple could mean the fruit or the new IPhone. As everyone knows, Apple is a company manufacturing consumer electronics, such as smart phones, computers, and tablets. Also, Apple is an incorporated company. Although I do think Apple’s success is due in large part to its hard working employees and Steve Jobs, I wonder if the form of organization Apple has adopted allowed Apple to be so successful. Then, you may ask: “what is an incorporated company?” You may also ask: “what are the benefits of incorporation?” In today’s article, I will attempt to answer these questions. However, be warned, I am not Steve Jobs. Continue reading →

Forms of Business in British Columbia

You may have heard your friend or family member saying that they are carrying on business as a sole proprietor or as a partner. You may also know a friend or family member who is a shareholder of a company or you may be a shareholder yourself. However, what does it mean to be a sole proprietor, a partner or a shareholder? What are the differences? Most of all, why does it matter? In today’s article, we will answer those questions.

Continue reading →

If I paid the down payment on the house from money I had before the relationship started, do we have to split the family house equally in the case of separation or divorce?

People often wonder in the case of separation what happens to the family home if one spouse contributed money they had before the relationship to the purchase of the family home. They wonder if their down payment on the family home will be divided when they separate or divorce or if it will be excluded from the division of family property.
Continue reading →

New Brochure on What to Do When a Death Occurs in Your Family

For any family, a death is extremely difficult to cope with. Not only family members will be emotionally devastated by the loss of their loved one, but some families will find themselves financially impacted by the loss. Also, families are often puzzled on what they should do following a death. In order to help you in this very difficult time, we created the brochure to provide you with some of the crucial information you need to know when a death occurs.

Continue reading →

Free New BC Child Support & Spousal Support Calculator

In order to help ensure that support payments are fair, the government of Canada has published two different guidelines, the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines (for Spousal Support) and the Federal Child Support Guidelines (for Child Support). The calculations involved in these guidelines are complicated, and we want to make it as easy for you as possible. We have developed a Free BC Child Support and Spousal Support Calculator to help with this. Continue reading →

What You Need to Know About the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act

On May 26, 2014 we gave a free lecture at the People’s Law School in Vancouver on What You Need to Know About the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. It was well attended with financial services professionals, accountants and interested members of the general public. For those who were unable to attend, this article will give you a brief overview of the lecture on the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act.
Continue reading →

Why a Prenuptial Agreement or Cohabitation Agreement is Essential under the Family Law Act

The new Family Law Act “FLA” which came into force in March 2013 modernized the law on family relationships. The FLA is a substantial shift from the previous law – the Family Relations Act. This article will deal with the new property division regimes under the FLA and why a prenuptial agreement or cohabitation agreement is essential for any party with assets and/or children from a previous relationship. Continue reading →

The Importance of the Financial Advisor in the Collaborative Divorce Process

The financial advisor is an important element to a successful Collaborative Divorce  process. Collaborative Divorce is a process that divorcing or separating spouses use to resolve issues resulting from the breakdown of their relationship. The goal in Collaborative Divorce is to resolve these issues in a non adversarial manner. The aim is to minimize or eliminate negative economic, social, and emotional consequences of litigation on those involved and their families. Continue reading →

Mediation as an Alternative to Court

Mediation is growing fast as an alternative to court. Not only in resolving civil disputes  such as ICBC claims, workplace disputes, estate disputes and business disputes to name just a few, but in all aspects of human conflict. In Small Claims Court, mediation is often the first step in the court process. Also, under the recent Family Law Act, mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution “ADR” is encouraged as an alternative and preferred way to resolve family disputes. Continue reading →

How to File for Separation in BC

Your relationship has ended and you wish to separate. You may be wondering how to file for separation in BC.

Live Separate & Apart

Well in BC there is no legal requirement to file for separation with a court. Separation is a question of fact. Are you living separate and apart from your spouse? If the answer is yes I am living a separate life from my spouse, then you are separated. Living separate does not necessarily mean that you are living in a different home than your spouse. It does however mean that you are staying in different rooms, and are not living as a couple. You must be living two separate lives, even if you are in the same house. There is no legal requirement to file for separation in BC to indicate that you are separated. Continue reading →

Tips on How to Represent Yourself in Court

You have decided to represent yourself in court. You need to know how to do it. Here are some tips on how to represent yourself in court that may prove to be beneficial for you.

Tip #1: Dress for Success

I am sure you have heard about the importance of dressing for success in the work place. You must also do that in the court room. Judges and jurors make first impressions based on how you look and present yourself. Keep that in mind when you are in the court room. The proper attire for a man or woman is business attire, such as a suit. If you don’t have a suit, a blazer or sports jacket with slacks, dress shirt and tie for a man and for a woman conservative business attire. Continue reading →