Divorce in British Columbia

Divorce in Your Province

Fairway Solutions

We have one office in your province and offer remote mediation across British Columbia.

General

If you’re facing separation and divorce, you will have a lot of questions. Fairway has guided clients through this pivotal life change since 2006, so our mediation experts have many of the answers. Below you’ll find resources and information for commonly asked questions, explanations of terms and documents you should know, and insight into what to expect during the separation and divorce process. If you still have questions or want to request a consultation with our mediators select the office closest to your home.

What do I need to do before I can file for Divorce?

A separation agreement usually accompanies a divorce application. While it is possible to apply for divorce before you have a signed separation agreement, it is not common unless there are no assets or children. The separation agreement is the agreement that captures all the decisions you and your spouse have agreed to either by consent or court order. The separation agreement will address, division of property, spousal support, child support and parenting.

How Do I get a Separation Agreement in British Columbia?

The separation agreement is a culmination of all the negotiations you have made with your spouse. There are a few ways you can get to a consensus on the terms in your separation agreement.

  1. You and your spouse can use the traditional approach of hiring lawyers to fight and litigate on your behalf.
  2. You can do it yourself if you and your spouse are in agreement on everything.
  3. Or you can choose to use an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service. Mediation is more commonly used now, given that the 2021 changes to the Divorce Act requires alternative dispute resolution, which may include mediation, unless it is inappropriate (ex. Situations of family violence). The divorce laws in Canada are well defined, and families find the outcome of fighting with lawyers does not justify the time or the cost. With the new Divorce Act, mediation is the first choice, even for divorces that are financially complicated and conflicted. Contact the Fairway closest to you to find out how to get started.

How do I file for Divorce in British Columbia?

Parties will need to obtain their marriage certificate. Copies of a marriage certificate can be obtained by contacting the Vital Statistics Agency

The divorce filing process in BC may take approximately 3 months before the court enters a divorce judgment. This timeline allows for:

  • Time for the court to obtain a divorce clearance certificate from Ottawa
  • Time for any waiting periods
  • Time for the courts to complete the processing of a divorce

To file for divorce, you can either do it yourself or you can solicit a service to file for divorce for you.

  • DIY divorce filing is done by obtaining the documents from the courthouse, filling out the documents together and filing the documents with the courthouse. It sounds simple. However, for couples with properties, support and children the forms are cumbersome.
  • Obtaining assistance to file for divorce requires an additional fee, however you will leave the cumbersome paperwork and court running up to the professionals.

What is the cost to file for divorce in British Columbia?

There are two separate filing fees involved with filing divorce documents in the British Columbia Supreme Court. The following filing fees are paid directly to the court when the documents are filed:

  • $210 for the first document to be filed
  • $80 for the final application to finalize a divorce

Custody, Parenting and Child Support

Child Support in British Columbia

Under the Family Law Act, there is a responsibility of the parent to support the child; even in the situation that one parent does not participate in the physical care of the child/children. Child support is the legal right of the child.

Child support calculations are based on your parenting schedule. The parent who the child lives with the majority of the time is entitled to receive child support from the other parent. If a child spends time equally with both parents, each party has a child support obligation, and the parent with the higher income will most often be responsible to pay the other parent net child support.

Each party may also have an obligation to contribute to a child’s extraordinary expenses.

What are the child support guidelines in British Columbia?

Child support in BC is based on the Federal Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines follow certain rules that the courts use to set child support amounts.

The amounts are based on how much the payer earns annually and how many children the payer is paying to support. Each province in Canada has its own payment calculation. the table for support in BC.

How is annual income calculated for child support?

Use the Federal Child Support Guidelines to calculate the amount of child support to be paid monthly. For a quick calculation try the child support calculator.

British Columbia Child Support Calculator

Can I reach an agreement without going to court?

Many couples come to an agreement about child support without going to court, either through do-it-yourself or through mediation. Agreements filed with the court can be enforced as they have the same force as a court order.

BC Child Support Booklet

This booklet contains basic information about child support in BC. Child Support in BC PDF

Spousal Support

Spousal Support in British Columbia

Spousal support in BC is defined as financial support to assist with living expenses that is paid to a former spouse under an agreement or court order. Spouses can apply for spousal support in BC if they:

  • Were married
  • Lived together as common law for at least two years, or
  • Lived together as common law for less than two years and have a child together

There are two laws in BC that handle spousal support: the Family Law Act (a provincial law) and the Divorce Act (a federal law).

When could spousal support in BC be paid?

Under provincial and federal laws, spousal support is intended to:

  • Consider all financial advantages and disadvantages one spouse can be faced with due to a separation or divorce
  • Ensure that spouses do not face economic hardship due to a relationship breakdown
  • Ensure both spouses share the financial responsibility of any consequences to caring for children during the marriage or common law relationship
  • Help spouses be financially independent in a timely manner

How do I figure out the amount of support to be paid?

There are many factors to be considered when determining the amount of spousal support to be paid, which may include the following:

  • How long the couple lived together
  • If the parties worked outside the home during the marriage or common law relationship
  • If the parties are able to support themselves
  • If one spouse was at home with the children
  • Whether one spouse earned significantly less than the other spouse
  • If the spouse that is intended to pay is able to make payments

The Support Advisory Guidelines can help spouses figure out the amount of spousal support that should be paid. The guidelines take into account the income of both spouses, length of the marriage, and whether children are involved.

MySupportCalculator.ca is a website with a support calculator and can provide an estimated dollar amount that can be adjusted based on specific circumstances.

How to apply for spousal support in BC

If spouses cannot come to an agreement and both spouses want to avoid the court system, the first and best option is to mediate with a third party to reach a fair agreement. The alternative is to apply to the court system for a spousal support order.

Court applications for spousal support in BC can be expensive and time consuming. Therefore, coming to an agreement on spousal prior to the court application is wise.

How long is spousal support intended to last?

Spousal support agreements or orders can often be dependent on the relationship length. However, the law in BC expects each party to be able to support themselves as soon as reasonably possible after the dissolution of a marriage if possible.

An agreement can state that spousal support will be reviewed at a certain time. This is important as parties’ circumstances can often change over time.

Is there a time limit to apply for spousal support in BC?

If applying under the BC Family Law Act, apply for spousal support no later than two years after the order for divorce.

For common law parties living together for at least two years or common law for less than two years but have a child together, apply within two years of the date of separation.

There is no time limit under the Federal Divorce Act.

Can I enforce the spousal support agreement in BC?

Once an agreement is received for spousal support, parties can enroll in the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP). FMEP is a government program that can monitor payments and can take action to assist in receiving spousal support payments.

Property/Financial

How to divide property in BC

The rules about how to divide property and debt in BC apply to both:

  • Married couples,
  • Couples who have lived together in a common-law relationship for at least two years

What is considered family property in BC?

Family property in BC is defined as everything spouses own together or separately on the date of separation, which include:

  • The family home
  • Investments
  • Bank accounts
  • RRSPs
  • Pensions
  • Insurance policies
  • An interest in a business

How is family property and family debt divided in BC?

The law in BC states that when parties’ separate, all family property and/or family debt are to be divided equally, unless an agreement is in place that states it will be divided differently.

How is property divided that was owned before the marriage in BC?

Property owned by one spouse prior to the marriage isn’t included in the family property to be divided as it is considered exempt property. However, if the exempt property increases in value during the marriage, that increase in value is considered family property to be divided.

Other assets that are excluded are gifts and inheritances received by one party. View the full list of excluded property in section 85 of the Law Act in BC.

Is unequal division of family property and debt possible in BC?

The BC court may order family property and/or debt to be divided unequally if it would be significantly unfair to divide it equally.

Some things the court may consider when making this decision include:

  • Length of the relationship
  • Other agreements between the parties that may have been signed or witnessed
  • Contribution to the other party’s career or potential career
  • How the family found themselves in debt
  • If the family debt is worth more than the value of the family property
  • Each spouse’s ability to contribute payments towards that debt
  • If either spouse impacted the increase or decrease in the value of the property or the family debt after separation

Are there time limits to settle family property or debt in BC?

In BC, married spouses must apply to divide family property or debt no later than two years after the order for divorce.

In BC, unmarried spouses must apply within two years of the date of separation.

Divorce Mediation and Resolution

Divorce mediation is a speedier and less costly way to dissolve a marriage than going through the courts and is mandated by the Divorce Act. With the help of a neutral third party such as Fairway, you and your partner will sit down together or perhaps apart to figure out an agreement encompassing all aspects of your divorce, from property division and spousal support to child decision making responsibilities. There are two types of divorce mediation, open and closed. Open mediation may be disclosed, while closed mediation is strictly confidential. Most family mediations are closed.

Divorce resolution through mediation requires teamwork. The mediator acts as a facilitator and guide, keeping the conversation moving forward and ensuring that all topics are covered. However, he or she will not provide legal advice. Therefore, it is best for both parties to seek legal advice from an independent lawyer before signing any final binding agreement.

Successful divorce mediation results in a non-binding, written agreement, that will be drafted into a binding separation agreement and then filed with the court. Upon court approval, it becomes legally binding. Enforcement may be sought in exactly the same way as a court order.

Divorce mediation can be challenging, as cooperation is essential. Through our proprietary process, though, which involves multiple professionals, we have helped many very contentious couples and financially complex families negotiate a fair and equitable settlement. Whenever possible, divorce resolution through mediation should be attempted, as it is much faster and less expensive than a court battle.


Laws

Federal

The Federal Divorce Act deals with divorce, as well as claims for child and spousal support, and decision making and parenting time, in divorce cases.

Provincial

The Family Law Act of BC deals with spousal and child support, division of property, and possession of the matrimonial home.

The Maintenance Enforcement Act is to make sure that property is divided in a fair way between spouses when they separate.

If one party lives outside of BC Support Orders Act.

Land (Spouse Protection) Act.

For more information visit: Legal Aid BC

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