Surrey British Columbia Family Law Blog

Family law: When mental health issues figure in custody decisions

Divorce situations can be embroiled with all kinds of issues. Parents may often be at odds regarding the custody of their children. British Columbia family law always has the best interests of children at heart and there are times when a parent's mental health comes into play and the individual's therapy records could be used by a family court judge to make custody and access decisions.

Most family law issues that are high conflict include a person with mental health or addiction issues. A judge will also decide if one parent should have access to the mental health records of the other. If there is a history of violence in the family due to the person with mental health issues, a judge will make decisions to keep the other parent and any children safe from harm.

Family law: Are final agreements really final?

When a couple decides to part ways, they may choose to have a separation agreement drawn up. Under family law in British Columbia, these agreements need to have certain things in them in order to be considered binding and final. In fact, they may never really become final at all.

In a case in British Columbia, a couple married in 1996. They separated in either 2013 or 2014 —just one of the many disputes in the case. They signed a separation agreement in 2014 drafted by the husband and without the advice of lawyers on either side. The agreement was signed as final. Subsequently, the husband changed his mind about the particulars of the agreement, stating that his wife misrepresented herself, but she disagreed and believed the agreement should indeed be final.

Reassuring children of divorce they still have a family

Parents who are divorcing need to reassure their children about many things, including allaying any insecurities they may have as their parents separate. When British Columbia parents make the decision to divorce, it's likely their children may take it harder than they do. Parents need to remind their kids that they will still be a part of a family and they will always be loved as always by each parent, even if they don't live under the same roof.

Children deserve the best care possible, and it is incumbent upon parents to always do what is in their best interests. Parental conflict can be harmful to them, so it's important parents don't impart their problems onto their kids. It's also not wise when parents use their kids as a go-between and insult each other in front of them. 

Divorce no longer seen as the societal taboo it once was

There used to be a time decades ago when no one talked about a couple separating. Those embroiled in a divorce were treated somewhat like social pariahs. Today, however, divorce is seen by many separating couples in British Columbia as a reason to celebrate rather than to hide one's head in the sand. For the most part, the negatives associated with divorce have vanished. 

That doesn't mean divorce has become easier on those involved, including children. It does mean social ostracization and the taboo surrounding divorce has pretty much come to a screeching halt. In fact, more couples are experiencing what is known as a happy divorce. Some couples are simply realizing they're better off as friends rather than as romantic partners and move forward as singles again. 

Should your beneficiaries really inherit the same amount?

It seems straightforward. If you have three children, shouldn’t they each inherit a third of your assets? Not necessarily. Leaving your beneficiaries the exact same dollar amount without taking into account their tax bracket could short them thousands of dollars in taxes.

New language could help British Columbia co-parents raise kids

There is an old adage that says doing things the same way all the time and expecting different results is par for insanity. Such is the same when it comes to divorced parents who co-parent their children. When British Columbia parents co-parent their children from different perspectives, problems may arise, so learning how to communicate with each other in a new way with the help of family law tools may be the answer to getting onto the same page regarding matters involving kids.

When parents put their children's best interests and needs in the foreground of decision-making that concerns them, it may be easier for them to adopt a new way of talking about issues regarding their kids. Even though a couple may not have been successful in their relationship doesn't mean they can't successfully co-parent their children by being kind to each other and understanding each other's opinions. Using new ways of speaking when referring to certain things is a step in the right direction.

When property division becomes problematic in a divorce

Couples who are heading for divorce obviously have had clashes of communication and likely don't see eye to eye on many issues. When divorcing British Columbia couples don't agree on property division, they have two choices -- each can get the help of a family law professional to help sort out the problems or head to court and let a judge decide. Alternative dispute resolution may be the answer to save going the family court route.

If a divorce mediator can't help a couple to sort out problems regarding property they own, they will have no recourse but to go to court. The process can drag out, put a dent in each spouse's pocketbook and takes control out of the hands of the couple. In some cases, however, the process may be necessary.

Family law: Judge supports teen's desire to transition genders

A judge recently ruled in favour of a 14-year-old female beginning testosterone injections so she can begin the transition to the male gender, despite the fact the teen's father isn't in agreement. The British Columbia judge went a step further in this family law proceeding and ruled that if the youth was referred to by her birth name or gender it would constitute family violence. If the court finds that has occurred, parents could lose custody or access to the child.

The child's mother is in agreement that the teen should undergo testosterone treatments for gender dysphoria. The child was seen by a number of doctors and psychologists who agree that she/he understands that nature of the treatment, its potential risks and outcomes. The child began identifying as male at the age of 11 and told a school counsellor at the age of 12.

Property division for common law partners in British Columbia

Divorce can be a messy affair. Whether a British Columbia couple is formally married or living a common law lifestyle when the relationship sours and the decision has been made to part ways with property on the line, the issue of property division will rear its head at some point. Family law is very encompassing when it comes to common law spouses and dividing property.

In British Columbia, the rules about the division of family property apply to both married couples and unmarried couples who have been living together in a marriage-like relationship for two or more years. When a couple in the province separates or divorces, each can keep the property that was his or hers before the union, but any increase in the appraised value of the property must be split. Property that was obtained during the marriage or relationship must be split, or one partner can buy the other partner out -- and that includes the family or matrimonial home unless a pre-nuptial, post-nuptial or cohabitation agreement exists that stipulates otherwise.

Family law: Platonic parenting becoming a popular trend

Not everyone who wants kids wants to be in a traditional relationship. These days the family unit doesn't always consist of mom, dad and kids. British Columbia family law rules take that fact into account when it comes to issues like children and platonic parenting, which is gaining in popularity. More men and women are choosing to become parents and to co-parent them while maintaining friendships that aren't romantic.

This trend has gone even further with some former partners who are not biologically related to their former partners' children continuing to co-parent their former partners' children. These are families by choice and apparently, the trend is on the upswing. Those who platonically co-parent children say they very much work as teams and both wanted children without what they say is the difficulty that often accompanies romantic relationships.

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