Surrey British Columbia Family Law Blog

When things get tough, many divorcing couples turn to mediation

The last thing most couples who are divorcing want is added tension during the process. To keep things as civil as possible, many British Columbia couples are opting for divorce help, such as alternative dispute resolution or mediation. When a divorce ends up in litigation, it is harder for everyone involved, and that could include children.

Many people are also resorting to online apps to manage their divorces. These apps can help with things like co-parenting and managing documents that are necessary when filing for and going through divorce. How divorce mediators can help is by assisting couples to come to agreements on contentious issues -- issues such as child custody, child support and spousal support. Many couples, although divorcing, have made the conscious decision to try to work out their divorce agreement with as little angst as possible.

The need for clear, concise divorce settlement documents

There is one crucial clause to insert into a spousal support agreement. If the payor of spousal support in British Columbia doesn't want to continue paying a former spouse after the spouse dies, the agreement must stipulate that payments cease upon death of the payee. Although inherent in the Divorce Act is the assumption that support ends when the recipient dies, it is still best to get that in writing within the body of the support document.

In most instances when a payee dies, so does the support. But in a 2017 case, a family court judge ruled that the former husband of his now-deceased former wife must continue to pay support to her estate because of the wording of a support agreement between them, which did not stipulate payment would end upon death. The agreement said that support was nonreviewable and could not be varied on any material change of circumstances and apparently, that included death, so the man would have to make all 60 payments to which he agreed.

General property matters to consider when you separate or divorce

What is the difference between a separation and a divorce?

A separation is when a couple who are married or in a common-law relationship decide to live apart. If you’re married, this doesn’t qualify as an end to the marriage. To nullify the marriage, you must get divorced in court.

Divorce comparisons may make the going tougher

Couple's marriages can break down for many reasons. Not all marriages are cut from the same cloth, and the issues that cause some British Columbia couples to divorce may be completely different from those of other couples. Divorces can be as unique as the individuals who are separating, so comparisons may actually not bode well for any couple looking to separate with the least angst possible.

Just because some individuals are miserable after a divorce doesn't mean all people will be. Some people thrive after getting out of what has been to them an unpleasant marriage for several years. When individuals focus on their own circumstances, rather than what is going on with other couples' divorces, experts say they're much better off.

Family law: Mother fights to have children returned to Canada

A mother is fighting to get her daughters returned to the country after their father removed them from the country after the couple's marriage ended. Family law rules in British Columbia and in other provinces can be complicated when it comes to these types of issues, particularly when the laws of two countries come into play. A Canadian court has ordered the father to return the girls to Canada, but the issue is now before the court in the country in which the father and the girls are residing.

The children, who are now 11 and 6 years old, were new Canadian citizens at the time their father was supposedly taking them on an international trip to visit their ailing grandmother. Instead, he flew them to a country where the laws are mainly patriarchal and fathers are assumed to be the guardians of children when their parents separate. Children in this particular country are not protected by the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. 

Family law: When a common law partner skips out on the debt

When a couple decides that living together is the next step in their relationship, each may want to safeguard their assets since common law unions aren't governed by the same rules as marriage affords. It is true that there are certain family law rules that speak to common law unions in British Columbia, but if one common law partner wants to leave the other with debt, it might be hard to recoup. It's not always cut and dried since many factors can come into play.

Having a cohabitation agreement in place may be one way of ensuring individual assets are protected. Such a document can also speak to the debt incurred by the individuals as a couple. Both people in the partnership need to know that both parties are responsible for debts incurred in both names. However, if no domestic partnership contract exists and one person skips out on the debt, creditors need to be informed that the debt belongs to two people.

Maintaining a sense of decorum in the divorce process

A couple who was worth billions of dollars might be able to teach others how to end a marriage amicably. British Columbia residents may be aware of the recent divorce of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his now former wife, MacKenzie. Even with billions of dollars on the line, the couple was able to end their marriage without a bang, but rather a consensual whisper. 

They, and other high-profile couples, might be able to impart some tips to others who are in a divorce situation. Firstly, couples can still maintain compassion for each other, realizing that divorce is difficult in the best of circumstances. Secondly, knowing that emotional closure may take a lot of time may help individuals move forward positively, rather than holding onto grudges or anger. And if there are young children involved, it's crucial to put their best interests before anything else.

Alienation in divorce in British Columbia may come at a high cost

It is usually safe to say that couples who are ending their relationships may not see eye-to-eye on many issues. British Columbia residents who are facing divorce may be at odds on most things, but adding fuel to the fire by alienating a former partner or spouse may mean having to dig deep into a pocket to foot the cost of family court. Often, contentious issues between former spouses may involve children and not being able to agree on important points might come at a cost.

When one parent has been mandated to make child support payments and the child refuses to have a relationship with him or her, support payments must still be made in the case of minor children. When a child is 18 years of age or older, the Divorce Act and the Child Support Guidelines will guide a family court judge to decide on a case-by-case basis. In cases of alienation, a family court judge will look at may variables, including the conduct of former spouses and any children. Based on the evidence, a judge may decide to tweak usual child support orders.

Can family law order force someone to pay vehicle insurance?

Court orders can accomplish many things. But can a British Columbia family law court order be enforced when  it directs a vehicle owner to insure a vehicle that is to be transferred to a former spouse? The British Columbia Supreme Court ruled no after a separating couple were embroiled in a financial dispute over whether they were actually considered to be spouses. Although their trial is set for June, the issue of ownership and insurance on a van was brought into question. 

The van was used by the man for his business, but the woman was listed as the owner and principal user of the vehicle. The couple came to blows over who was responsible for paying the insurance on the van. The woman said she would transfer the ownership to her former partner if he's pick up the tab for the insurance, but the man said he just wanted to be named as he principal operator of the van, not the sole owner, nor did he want to pay for the insurance. 

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.

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