Legal system common questions
I can't get legal aid and I can't afford a lawyer, but I need some legal help with my case. What can I do?
If you can't afford to pay a lawyer for your whole family law case, you can still get help with parts of it from a lawyer or paralegal. This is called getting unbundled lawyer services. It costs less than hiring a lawyer for your whole case.
Not all lawyers offer unbundled services. The BC Family Law Unbundling Roster has a list of lawyers and paralegals who do offer them and tells you what languages they work in. And see Tips about getting legal help for other ways to get help.
What are "unbundled" lawyer services and how do they work?
"Unbundled" services means the lawyer doesn't represent you through your whole case. They just work on the parts you ask them to. You handle the rest of your case on your own.
It can cost less than hiring a lawyer for your whole case.
You and your lawyer make a plan to sort out your legal problem. The two of you break down your case into separate tasks and you choose what tasks you want help with and what tasks you'll handle on your own. It lets you work in a way that suits your budget and how comfortable you feel about managing your own case.
Not all lawyers offer unbundled services. The BC Family Law Unbundling Roster has a list of lawyers and paralegals who do offer them and tells you what languages they work in.
When you go to court, does the judge already have information about your family law case?
Judges hear many cases every day and don't have time to carefully read and memorize all the forms and documents they get. The judge will have a copy of any completed forms or trial books (if you're in Provincial Court) that you filed in the court registry but probably won't know exactly where to find specific information about your case.
This means you need to present your case to the judge in an organized, easy-to-follow way.
For example, it'll be much easier for the judge and the other person in your case (the law calls them the other party) to follow what you're saying if you make a list of your points or use the index of your trial book as your list when you're speaking. When you do this, say where the supporting information for each point is in your documents as you come to them so the other person and the judge can follow along.
If you're going to court for a first appearance in Provincial Court, the judge probably won’t know anything about your case. Ask family duty counsel for help if you're not sure what to do.
What are costs?
In the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, costs means a court order that says that the person (the law calls them a party) who loses in certain cases has to pay some of the legal expenses of the other person.
See Costs and expenses for more detailed information about how costs are worked out.
How can you turn your separation agreement into a court order?
If you file your separation agreement at a court registry, the court can enforce the parts of your agreement to do with parenting and child and spousal support as if they were court orders. You can also apply for a consent order based on your agreement. See our step-by-step guides for how to get a consent order in Supreme Court or get a consent order in Provincial Court.
- Do you need to go to Provincial (Family) Court or Supreme Court? for information about which court you should go to,
- Making an agreement after you separate and Making an agreement when you live together for more information about agreements, and
- Write your own separation agreement for tips on writing a legally binding separation agreement.