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Vancouver Family Law Blog

Family law: There is a time limit on consent in certain respects

It has been said that a rose is a rose is a rose. The same does not apply when it comes to providing consent with respect to certain issues under family law in British Columbia as in the rest of the country. A recent case saw a family court judge deny a woman the use of an embryo after her former husband withdrew his consent. The embryo was created and frozen while the couple was still married.

The couple decided to use in vitro fertilization to try to start a family while they were married. The embryos were created using the DNA of donors and not the couple. One of those embryos resulted in a child born during the couple's marriage. The couple separated shortly after the child's birth. The woman decided she would like to use the other embryo to give birth to a second child, but her former husband disagreed.

Your prenup may not be all it’s cracked up to be

Prenuptial agreements are a great way to protect your assets before you get married. These agreements are created to protect the assets of both parties and to help facilitate an easy split should divorce ever come on the table. There are some cases, however, in which that signed contract may not be as watertight as you think. Knowing what might void your prenuptial agreement can help you create one that will stand up in court, should the need arise. 


Family law: Parenting coordinators can help with parenting plans

For divorced parents who have parenting plans in place, but need some extra help, parenting coordination may be an option. Parent coordinators have gained popularity under family law in British Columbia over the last few years. A parent coordinator's main function is to assist parents to implement their parenting plans and to help resolve contentious issues that might arise from those plans. 

Parent coordinators help parents to iron out issues for the long haul. They aren't there to help fix things temporarily or for the interim. They are there to help with final parenting plans whether they're court-ordered after trial or the result of a divorce agreement.

Family law: Bill C-78 passes, addresses relocation of children

One of the most difficult decisions for divorcing parents to make is whether relocating their children would be in the children's best interests. Family law in British Columbia can provide the guidance parents may be seeking when relocation is on the table. Things can become especially problematic when one parent wants to relocate with the children and the other is not in favour. 

Bill C-78, which recently passed through parliament without amendments, updates family and divorce laws so more disputes can be settled out of court. The bill also amends language that has to do with custody. This bill stipulates that the custodial parent or the one who makes major decisions must give 60 days notice to the other parent if he or she wants to relocate. The other parent has 30 days to review the request and to file a formal objection if he or she doesn't agree.

Wills and estates: Providing for those with special needs

Individuals planning their estates may have to take some special circumstances into consideration when doing so. When it comes to wills and estates in British Columbia, those who have beneficiaries with special needs must take particular care when fashioning estate planning documents. It may be that a loved one with special needs may need financial help long after a testator has died and a testator may wish to ensure that loved one is taken care of. 

A testator must also be careful that the family member's benefits aren't lost because of an inheritance, so often the best way of ensuring this is to set up what is known as a Henson trust. Most provinces will allow those who are receiving disability benefits to receive payments from third parties, which can be accomplished through a Henson trust. There are certain things to be taken into consideration when establishing such a trust: the age of the beneficiary, the value of the inheritance, the disability of the beneficiary and whether the beneficiary still wishes to receive disability benefits.

Neurosurgeon ordered to pay millions in high asset divorce

A neurosurgeon has been ordered by a Supreme Court judge to pay his former wife millions of dollars after a court found him guilty of hiding global assets during the divorce process. The British Columbia couple, who were involved in a high asset divorce two years ago and married in 1997, had a lot at stake financially. He has been told he must pay his former wife nearly $24 million.

The man apparently did not obey original court orders, nor the advice of his lawyer. He was also ordered to pay $612,000 to the daughter the couple share while she completes her university degree. The man transferred various assets into the names of other people in order to evade payment -- assets which were frozen by the court. 

Wills and estates planning for older, divorcing couples

Over the last few years, more senior couples have been divorcing. This has had implications on these couples' wills and estates plans. Even when British Columbia couples divorce, most will want to ensure they leave assets to loved ones, particularly any adult children they may share. If children are a part of a family business, estate planning in these instances, are particularly important. When it comes to the dynamics, the divorce part is easier than the estate planning part in a grey divorce scenario.

Property or land could come into play since a divorced couple can continue to own property together if they so choose. There is no cookie cutter mold in these instances. A divorcing or separating couple has to decide how their estate plans should look based on their individual situations. 

British Columbia family law: When is a spouse a spouse?

Canadian provinces have certain criteria for considering couples to be spouses. British Columbia family law states that unmarried couples must be living together for at least two years before they can make property or spousal support claims against each other if they decide to separate. Common law designations vary across the country and whether someone is looking to provincial or federal rules.

For instance, partners only need to be together for a year to take advantage of federal income tax relief. But what about when partners are in committed relationships, but don't actually live at the same residence 100% of the time? Can claims be made for spousal support? One Canadian judge ruled that maintaining separate residences does not prevent the finding of cohabitation in some cases and ruled that even though a couple in one case didn't live together, they should in fact be considered spouses because of the other factors in their relationship.

High asset divorce: Do trusts really protect property?

Family trust funds won't always be a protective measure for assets when a couple is separating or divorcing. A British Columbia resident who is embroiled in a high asset divorce situation may believe his or her assets that are sheltered in a family trust may not figure into a divorce settlement. Things can become even more problematic when there is no marriage contract in place.

When property is held in a trust, it is often the belief that it won't have to be shared with an estranged partner. In a recent case, a family court judge wanted to know if the property actually held in trust belonged to the husband for whom the trust fund was set up -- in other words, he was the beneficiary of the trust. But it was ruled that legal ownership belonged to the trustees of the trust who hold the property for the beneficiary. In this case, however, the husband was also one of the trustees and because of that he had to include the property as part of net family property.

Family law: Stepparents' rights in British Columbia

Stepparents usually develop nurturing, positive and loving relationships with their stepchildren. When a couple in a blended family divorces, it may be that stepparents wish to maintain those relationships with their stepkids, and family law in British Columbia paves the way for them to do so. If it is in the best interests of the children to continue having contact with their stepparents, there are a number of ways in which this can happen.

Biological parents who understand the importance their children have with a soon-to-be former spouse may be more open to discussing setting up a visitation schedule. If a decision is made, it can be included in a legally-binding agreement. There are self-help guides available in British Columbia to help couples in these situations and when a stepparent wishes to establish guardianship of a child, there are family law tools to help them in this regard as well.

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