Frequently asked questions about the legal system and courts
Can I get legal aid for my family law problem?
Legal aid, provided by the Legal Services Society (LSS), can take one of three possible forms: legal representation (a lawyer paid by legal aid to take your whole case), legal advice (brief legal advice on just a specific part of your case), or legal information (publications, websites, answers to email questions, etc.)
You must be financially eligible to get legal representation and most legal advice. There are two sets of financial guidelines: one for legal advice and one for legal representation. Legal information (plus some kinds of legal advice) is free to all British Columbians. If you're reading this page, you've already received a form of legal aid.
To find out more about legal representation for family law problems and what's covered, see the Serious family problems or Child protection matters pages on the LSS website. If you don't qualify for legal representation, you may still be eligible for legal advice services. To find out for sure whether your particular case qualifies for legal representation, go to your local legal aid office (or call the provincial LSS Call Centre) to apply.
What is court harassment?
Court-related abuse and harassment happens when one party in a family law action uses the legal system or repeated or ongoing legal actions to harass and abuse the other party. See our fact sheet What if your ex is harassing you through the courts? for a detailed description of this type of harassment. If you're financially eligible, you may qualify for legal representation (a lawyer paid by legal aid) because of these or similar instances of court-related harassment. For more information about legal representation, see the legal aid Serious family problems and How to apply for legal aid pages.
Do the new Supreme Court Family Rules apply to my case if any of my documents were filed before the new rules came into effect?
Yes. All cases started before the new rules took effect on July 1, 2010 are considered (or "deemed") to be family law cases under the new rules.
How do the changed rules affect my case if I filed it before July 2010?
First of all, from July 1 on, you must follow the court rules as set out in the new Supreme Court Family Rules.
Secondly, if you filed documents before July 1, 2010 that contained different names or terms they are considered (or "deemed") to be the new documents and the new terms apply to your case. For example, if you filed a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim before July 1, 2010, you're now considered to be the "claimant" instead of the "plaintiff" and the Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim are considered to be the "Notice of Family Claim." If you filed an Appearance or an Appearance and Statement of Defence, you're now the "respondent" instead of the "defendant" and your documents will be referred to as a "Response" under the new rules.
See also our Old Rules/New Rules Chart showing the names of documents filed/terms used under the old rules and what they are called under the new rules.
Do I need to file other documents to replace the ones I filed before July 1, 2010?
In most cases, neither party will have to file new documents. However, if one party does want the other party to use the new form instead of the document they filed before July 1, 2010, they can serve a Demand (Form F99) on the other party, and the other party must file the new document within 21 days of being served with the Demand.
You can't make this demand if final orders have been made for all the claims in your case.
One situation where it might be helpful to ask the other party to file the new form is if the other party filed a Writ of Summons or a Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim before July 1, 2010, but you've not yet filed an Appearance or Statement of Defence. The new Response (Form F4) asks you to respond to the facts and claims set out in the Notice of Family Claim and this form will be difficult to fill out if the other party hasn't filed a Notice of Family Claim.
What are costs?
I'm representing myself and I've found there are terms that I can't find a clear and concise definition of. For example, costs. This is a minefield for the lay person! What costs? The costs of appearing in court? The costs paid to the lawyer to date? If it's a total of all legal costs, then how is it broken down?
In the Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, "costs" refers to a court order that says that the losing party in a lawsuit must pay the legal expenses of the successful party. See our fact sheet about costs for more detailed information about how costs are calculated.
Still got a question?
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