Divorce & Family Law
British Columbia’s trusted legal advisors since 1866
How we can help
The end of a relationship is often difficult for everyone touched by it. Let Crease Harman’s team of divorce and family law lawyers help you embark on the next phase of your life on a solid footing.
Lawyers at Crease Harman have been guiding clients through the process of separation and divorce for over a century, and are always apprised of the latest developments in divorce and family law. We provide confidential advice at any stage of the process, and for any type of relationship including common law and traditional marriages.
We know that you want to resolve any disputes arising from the end of a relationship as quickly, economically, and successfully as possible, and our goal is to help you achieve those results using various strategies such as negotiation and mediation. We also know that sometimes people just can’t agree on important issues despite their best efforts. In those cases where it is necessary for a judge to make a decision about your rights, responsibilities, and the best interests of your children, we will fully represent your interests to the highest levels of court.
A divorce can only be obtained through an order of the BC Supreme Court. The Court typically will not grant a divorce until the parties have settled all other matters of property division, child and spousal support, and parenting, or the court has also made orders in this regard.
There are several grounds for divorce in Canada, though the one that parties most commonly rely upon is the breakdown of the marriage as a result of spouses having lived separate and apart for over one year. It is not always necessary for spouses to have lived in separate residences to meet this test, as it is a practical reality that many separated couples are forced to remain under one roof while resolving their outstanding issues. Crease Harman’s divorce lawyers are able to answer any questions that you might have about this, or any other aspect of the divorce process.
Unwinding a relationship often involves the determination of each spouses’ entitlement to the assets held or accumulated during the relationship. Crease Harman’s divorce and family lawyers recognize that the process of identifying and valuing family property can sometimes be daunting and complicated; we are here to help you through it every step of the way. Our team relies on their own expertise, as well as that of accountants, appraisers, and other professionals to ensure that property is valued accurately and divided appropriately. Family property can take many forms, including:
- real estate
- bank accounts and investments
- interests in partnerships or corporations of any size
- trusts, annuities, other financial vehicles
- moveable assets such as boats, RVs, aircraft, equipment, and tools
- art, jewellery, furnishings
BC law presumes that a spouse will keep any asset that he or she brought in to the relationship, or any gift or inheritance received from a third party during the relationship. If a pre-existing or inherited asset, such as a house, increases in value during the relationship, the increase is presumed by law to be split between the spouses. There are important qualifications and exceptions to these presumptions, and any separating spouse needs to get competent legal advice as to his or her specific entitlements or obligations. Obtaining good advice at an early stage can help to lay the ground work for a fair and efficient resolution at the end of the process. Some spouses face important limitation periods for their asset division claims; contact Crease Harman today to arrange for a consultation regarding your asset division matter.
Division of Debt
Determining who is responsible for the debt left over at the end of a relationship can be a difficult and acrimonious process. It must be done however, and it is best done efficiently. BC law treats family debt largely the same way as family property: a spouse generally remains responsible for their debt incurred before the relationship, and any new debt is presumed to be divided equally. Again, there are exceptions to these presumptions, and it is important to seek timely legal advice as to your own specific circumstances.
Crease Harman’s team of lawyers recognize the value in a quick resolution, particularly when our client’s money would be best spent servicing their existing obligations. We can work with you to craft a functional solution to your debt-division problem, and help you to move towards a position of independence.
The breakdown of a relationship does not always affect spouses equally. Legislation in British Columbia addresses this through the mechanism of spousal support payments, either by agreement or court order. The objectives of spousal support are to:
- Deal with any economic advantages or disadvantages a spouse may face as a result of the relationship or separation
- Share the financial consequences arising from care of the children
- Reduce the financial hardship a spouse will experience as a result of the separation, and
- Encourage each spouse to become financially self-sufficient within a reasonable period of time.
This is a complex area of divorce and family law, with significant financial consequences. It is essential to seek legal advice early in the separation process, particularly about interim support orders, as delay can substantially affect spousal support rights obligations. No party has an automatic entitlement to spousal support, and a court will look at a wide range of factors in determining when and how much to award. Two of the most important factors are the length of the relationship and the amount of income available to each spouse, though no one factor will justify spousal support in every circumstance.
Book your consultation with Crease Harman’s divorce and family lawyers to get advice tailored to your specific financial situation; we can help you achieve a fair and favourable resolution so you can get back on track to financial independence and success.
Parenting Time & Parenting Matters
Separating parents face a significant challenge in ensuring that their children’s interests are truly put first, and that arrangements are made to keep their children happy, healthy, and safe. Crease Harman’s team of family lawyers will help you establish your priorities for your children, and work with you to incorporate them in your children’s future parenting plan. Our family lawyers will advocate to ensure that your children have a secure and stable childhood, and to achieve sustainable parenting arrangements that allow every spouse the opportunity to participate in their children’s upbringing in a way that makes sense. Call us today to help with any parenting matter, including:
- parenting schedules
- parenting responsibilities
- safety concerns
- medical issues/ special needs
- schooling & education
- plans for relocation
Child Support & Special and Extraordinary Expenses
Child support is the right of the child according to Canadian law, and any parent who has the children for 60% or less of the time will be required to pay under the Federal Child Support Guidelines. While this concept seems simple at first, it can be complex and difficult to apply in reality. There are a variety of different parenting arrangements, including split and shared parenting, which require child support to be paid by both parties, resulting in one parent’s payment being set-off against the other’s. Some families have fluid parenting arrangements, and some families have a parent who lives or works in a different city. All of these variations require a different approach to the calculation of support for the children. It is important to have solid legal advice for your own circumstances before entering in to any agreement or arrangement for child support.
Separated parents often need help in determining what additional costs of raising the children qualify as appropriate special or extraordinary expenses under section 7 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines. If an expense does qualify as a “section 7” expense, it is not covered under the regular child support payment, and is usually divided by the parents proportionately according to their incomes. Qualifying expenses are typically for medical expenses or extracurricular activities, such as payments for braces or dance lessons. Whether or not an expense qualifies will depend on many factors, and must be both reasonable and necessary in light of all of the circumstances, including the income available to the parties.
Contact Crease Harman’s family lawyers today for a consultation regarding your child support or special and extraordinary expense issue.
Income Determination for Support
It is critical to ensure that any order or agreement for support is based on the accurate information regarding the financial circumstances of both parties. Many people receive wages for employment from one or more employers, and in these cases it is possible to review the parties’ income tax returns or paystub to determine (or adjust from time to time) the correct for support level. But the process can become more complicated when one or more of the parties is self-employed, or receives income from various other sources such as trusts, annuities, gifts and loans, or investment/dividend income from closely held corporations. The income that a party reports for income tax purposes in these circumstances can quite often over-state or understate the income that is actually available to the party, which makes determining an appropriate level of support difficult.
Crease Harman’s lawyers have the experience and expertise to perform a full review of your financial circumstances, as well as those of your former spouse. We will help you ensure that any support order or agreement is based on the legitimate ability to pay, nothing more or less. Call our family lawyers today for a consultation on your income determination issue.
Restraining Orders & Conduct Orders
It is an unfortunate reality that separation and divorce can bring out the most regrettable behaviours in people. While this might be human nature, sometimes it needs the help of the courts to be controlled. If you or a loved one is ever in a situation where you are a victim of violence, or fear for your, or someone else’s safety it is extremely important that you contact the police immediately. Police will intervene as appropriate, and can also direct you to resources to help manage personal security in times of crisis. Often in such circumstances the police will encourage a party to seek a civil order from the court for further protection. Sometimes a party will decide themselves to seek the intervention of the court to help bring stability. These are circumstances in which Crease Harman’s family lawyers can help. There are a range of orders available to control behaviours under the Family Law Act, and at common law, including:
- protection orders, which can carry criminal consequences
- conduct orders to control specific behaviours
- orders for exclusive occupancy of the family residence
- orders restricting contact, either completely or restricting it to specific forms such as email
Contact Crease Harman today to discuss whether or not one of these types of order would be suitable for your circumstances, whether you are seeking it yourself or if someone else is seeking an order against you.
CONTACT THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY IF YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU OR A LOVED ONE IS FACING A THREAT OF HARM
Mediation & Arbitration
While everybody deserves their day in court, the reality is that the path to a courtroom is often expensive and divisive. Crease Harman’s family lawyers recognize that many of our clients are most interested in achieving a clear route to independence, and are not eager to commit the time and money necessary to argue their case before a judge. Fortunately modern family law provides many options to help parties avoid court, and to steer them to fair and workable resolutions in a cost-efficient manner. Our team of lawyers use every approach available to them, which (when appropriate) includes 4-way meeting between the spouses and their lawyers, or employment of other alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation and arbitration. The best resolutions are often the ones crafted by the parties themselves; book your consultation to discuss alternative dispute resolution with Crease Harman’s family lawyers today.