Common Questions

Our marriage is over; do we have to go to court?

Going to court to settle separation and divorce issues is necessary for some couples, but not for most. Most separating and divorcing couples prefer to work together – sometimes with the help of a mediator or a lawyer trained in collaborative law – to settle things without going to court.

Good starting points include:

  • JP Boyd on Family Law, from Courthouse Libraries BC, has a chapter on Resolving Family Law Problems out of Court. It provides an overview of alternatives to court for family law issues: collaborative processes, mediation, arbitration, and parenting coordination.
  • MyLawBC: Make a Separation Plan Pathway, from Legal Services Society (LSS), helps you make a plan for resolving the family law matters involved in your separation or divorce. It helps you figure out if you and your spouse can work together to resolve your matters without going to court. 
  • Legal Forms & Documents, on the Family Law in BC website from LSS, has a section called "Agreement". It includes "Who can help you reach an agreement?", describing options to solve issues without going to court. This information page introduces family mediation and the collaborative family law process.
  • Getting a Divorce, on the Family Law in BC website from LSS, has a step-by-step guide "Do Your Own Uncontested Divorce".
  • Desk Order Divorce: The Do-It-Yourself Divorce Process, from People's Law School, provides an overview of divorce procedure where the couple is in agreement.
  • Online Divorce Assistant (e-Divorce App), from the Ministry of Attorney General, is an online app that helps people joint-file divorces in cases with and without children. 

Need more help?

  • Family Justice Centres, from the provincial government, has family justice counsellors who can help parents resolve disagreements without going to court. They provide short-term counselling, mediation, and referrals, but not legal advice.
  • Family LawLINE, from Legal Services Society, provides legal advice about family law issues for low-income people.
  • Mediate BC has a list of qualified family mediators. Some mediators may offer services on a sliding scale or probono. Contact the mediator to enquire. 
  • Lawyer Referral Service, Access Pro Bono, helps you connect with a lawyer for a free initial consultation of up to 30 minutes. You may also ask for a collaborative family lawyer.
  • Pro Bono Collaborative Divorce Project, from BC Collaborative Roster Society, provides their service for parties who are willing to meet and negotiate using the principles of collaborative practice but are unable to afford the collaborative team for their case. Apply online to be considered.
  • Find more help near you on Clicklaw HelpMap.

See our related common questions:

Last reviewed by Clicklaw Editors on July 2018
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