Abuse & family violence

Abuse in relationships includes behaviour ranging from threats to physical or sexual assault, and may also include harmful financial, emotional, and verbal actions. Abuse can be physical, emotional or verbal, psychological, sexual, and/or financial.

Frequently asked questions

Can I get legal aid for my family law problem?

Legal aid in BC, provided by the Legal Services Society (LSS), can take one of three possible forms: legal representation, legal advice, or legal information.

If you are financially eligible, you may be able to get legal representation and most legal advice for free. The eligibility guidelines for legal advice and for legal representation are separate. 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 because of these or similar instances of court-related harassment. For more information about legal representation, see Serious family problems and How to apply for legal aid on the Legal Services Society website.

How long can I stay in a transition house?

Transition houses provide temporary housing in a protected, secure environment. These transition houses are usually for women and their children who are leaving abusive relationships. Stays at a transition house are no longer than 30 days. Generally, the addresses of transition houses aren't given out to the general public in order to protect the people who stay there.

What is the difference between a transition house and a safe home?

Safe homes serve the same purpose as transition houses, but the time you can stay there is shorter. Generally, safe homes are in communities where transition houses don't exist. A safe home could be a private home (or apartment) or hotel. Safe homes are only available for stays up to seven days.

How do I find a transition house?

The BC Housing website provides a list of transition houses (look for "TH" in the right-hand column) throughout BC and how to contact them.

If there's no transition house in your community, you may find help through a safe home program. The same Web page also lists safe houses in BC ("SH").

Where can I go after I leave a transition house?

Second-stage housing may be available for women who have left abusive relationships. On average, women and their children can usually stay in second-stage housing for nine to 12 months.

Here's a list of second stage housing (BC Housing).

After your stay at a transition house, you may also be given priority for affordable housing that's available in some communities in BC.

Can welfare force me to ask for support from my abusive spouse?

Tell your employment assistance worker or family maintenance worker if you're concerned about a violent spouse. The Ministry of Human Resources has a policy that it won't go after maintenance if you or your children are in danger of violence from your spouse.

Also, talk to an advocate before you go to the interview. To find an advocate in your community, see the Map of Advocates on the PovNet website.

How do I protect my wife from her family's abuse?

You or your wife could contact police about getting a peace bond, based on incidents of abuse you've experienced. You could also help her apply for a protection order in family court. For more information, see the booklet For Your Protection: Peace Bonds and Family Law Protection Orders.

Another resource is VictimLink BC, which you can call at 1-800-563-0808 (no charge) to find out about local victim service providers.

Still got a question?

If your legal information question isn't answered here, please send us an email. Provide some background information for your question, including where you live in BC and the level of court involved (Provincial or Supreme), if applicable. Your question (without your name or identifying details) and its answer may be added to our FAQ pages.

If we can't answer your question, we may have to refer you elsewhere.

We can't guarantee that your question will be answered quickly. If you need a quick response, contact one of the resources listed in Who can help?