My partner and I are separating, but I have no idea what resources are out there for me. Though the situation is more or less amicable at the moment, I am worried about what it means for our kids, custody, our financials and everything else. Please help.
Thanks for this question. What you are describing is a huge change for everyone involved, and feeling overwhelmed definitely makes sense. Finding the correct information and understanding your rights will give you good tools to help you move forward. The Resource Centre is a great place to start, because we can help connect you to resources under the umbrella of our Legal Aid & Information program.
First off, through all of this, it will be important that you feel supported. If you would like help looking into local mental health resources for you or your family, we can connect you to these. As well, if you ever feel there is a risk to your family during this process, please call 9-1-1.
In terms of free legal advice on family matters, one excellent local resource is “Family Duty Counsel.” Family Duty Counsel lawyers are usually embedded in the Sechelt Law Courts, and available remotely for now. They can speak to things like custody, property, settlement agreements, child protection and more. The Family Duty Counsellors on the coast right now are Judith Wilson (604-886-1288) and Caroline Plant (604-399-9563). Typically they each set aside one day every two weeks for clients wishing to access them via this free service. Call them directly, saying you’d like to book a “Family Duty Counsel” appointment.
Another legal advice service covering family law matters is “The Family LawLINE” (604-408-2172), where you can apply to get legal advice, information or representation. When you call the number, you’ll start out at the Intake line run by Legal Aid BC. The Family LawLINE runs Monday to Friday, 9 am to 3 pm, except Wednesdays when it closes at 2:30pm. If calling this line feels intimidating for whatever reason, and your issue isn’t pressing, give the Resource Centre a call, and we can schedule a time to call the Family LawLINE together. It’s something we often do with clients.
If you identify as Aboriginal, and choose to let Legal Aid know, this will allow intake workers and lawyers to support you in a culturally sensitive way. Legal Aid follows the lead of its Indigenous Services division, and bases its services around its Reconciliation Action Plan. (FOR ONLINE COAST REPORTER VERSION: https://lss.bc.ca/about/reconciliation.php)
In terms of mediation services, the coast has a “Family justice counsellor” made available through the Province of BC. Family justice counsellors (not to be confused with the duty counsellors mentioned above) are specially trained to help families resolve their issues about guardianship, parenting arrangements, contact and support. It’s free, and you can find out more, and book an appointment by calling 604-740-8936. Right now, their services are available by phone and videoconferencing.
Depending on your level of comfort online, tools through websites like MyLawBC (FOR ONLINE CR VERSION: https://mylawbc.com/) can help you do things like create parenting plans, or use mediation tools through their online family resolution service. If computers aren’t your thing, we have lots of information in hard copy, and we can also help guide you through some of these online resources.
There is so much more support and information available on this topic than what I can write here. You don’t have to do this alone. Call us at 604-885-4088 to book an appointment, and we can go from there.
Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. Do you have a question? Just Ask Angie! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org