Family Law Services

Separation and Divorce

The complexities of separation and divorce can be daunting. At Mills Family Law, our dedicated team of Vancouver Family Lawyers is here to guide you through this challenging process.

Navigating Separation and Divorce

For most people, the end of a marriage or marriage-like relationship is one of the most stressful events they will experience in their lifetime. Dividing property, finding new housing, deciding parenting arrangements, and determining support arrangements are all part of the process of separation and divorce. This can be overwhelming for anyone. Working with experienced lawyers can help you get the guidance and support you need to navigate family law in British Columbia with as little stress as possible. At Mills Family Law, we combine legal expertise with a compassionate approach that respects the challenges many of our clients face.

Identifying the Date of Separation: Key Factors to Consider

Separation occurs when one spouse decides to end the relationship. There are no formal requirements to separate from a legal perspective; rather, your actions will determine whether a separation has occurred. In some cases, spouses will continue to live together in the same household after separation. While the date of separation usually obvious to both spouses, the following factors are considered when there is disagreement: 

  • Whether a spouse tells friends and family that they have separated;
  • Whether spouses continue to reside in the same residence;
  • Whether sexual intimacy continues between spouses;
  • Whether spouses continue to share finances; and
  • Whether a spouse continues to provide domestic services to their spouse.

No one factor is more important than the other.

Defining 'Spouse' in Marriage and Common-Law Relationships

You may be a spouse regardless of whether you are married or not. Often referred to as “common-law” relationships, family law in British Columbia treats spousal unions much the same as the same as marriage so you may have access to all the same legal rights as married spouses. Under BC family law, a marriage-like relationship is one in which you cohabitate and share a child together, or in which you have lived together for at least two years. If these conditions apply to your relationship then according to the BC Family Law Act, you are considered spouses with all the same legal consequences as if you were a married couple. Many of the same legal rights and obligations will apply to your relationship, including those relating to property division and spousal support. However, beware that different timelines apply to unmarried spouses. Speak to a lawyer to ensure that your rights are not lost.

Divorce Process in BC: Steps and Requirements

Across Canada, divorce for married couples is governed by the federal Divorce Act. The only ground for a divorce in the Divorce Act is marriage breakdown (also known as “no fault” divorce). A marriage has broken down if any ONE of the following criteria applies:

  • you have lived separate and apart from your spouse for at least one year;
  • there has been physical or mental cruelty; or
  • if there has been adultery. 

Property division is dealt with under provincial legislation, which in British Columbia is the Family Law Act. Generally, all issues arising from your marriage should also be resolved before applying for divorce.

Alternative Dispute Resolution: Settling Issues Outside Court

Both federal and provincial legislation encourages separating spouses to settle their legal issues outside of court in what is often called “alternative dispute resolution” or ADR. There are several options for out of court settlement, including mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce. We carefully consider each of these options with our clients to find a path that is most suitable. Whether you are seeking guidance for alternative dispute resolution, or even if your case ultimately goes to court, Mills Family Law is a leading family law firm serving clients throughout BC. We will work closely with you to find the best possible resolution to your separation or divorce.

Uncontested Divorce in BC: Process and Benefits

An uncontested divorce is one where all issues have been resolved outside of the court process, ideally through a separation agreement. In these situations, one spouse, or both spouses together, can apply for divorce by submitting an application to the appropriate Supreme Court registry. This process is known as an application for desk order divorce.

Protecting Your Rights in Separation and Divorce Cases

There are time limits for seeking assistance from the court. For married couples, claims for spousal support must be made within two years of your divorce date or annulment. Unmarried or common-law spouses have two years from the date of separation to bring claims for spousal support to court or their claims will be lost. These time limits are suspended during any period in which the parties are engaged in family dispute resolution with a family dispute resolution professional, or a prescribed process. This includes the collaborative divorce process.

At times, parties may not agree on the date of separation which can have a significant impact on property division or support claims. If you are entering the process of separation and divorce, you should seek legal advice to prevent any limitation period from expiring. If a limitation period has expired, you may be able to take steps to minimize the impact. Mills Family Law can help.