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Family Law

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Division of Property

Valuation of Personal Assets

In legal proceedings, assessment of family assets has a profound impact on the financial position of both spouses.

Operating under Family Law Act guidelines, Virgin Hickman is a leader in all equal and unequal property division issues. We promise sound asset valuations, to include:

  • Home and recreational property
  • Commercial real estate
  • Vehicles
  • Pensions and registered retirement savings plans (RRSP)
  • Other family financial assets and inheritances

Agreements – Marriage, Co-Habitation, and Separation

Virgin Hickman specializes in all family law matters, including marriage and cohabitation agreements for new relationships, and we vigorously represent your interests when pursuing a desirable separation agreement.

Marriage Agreements

A marriage agreement considers financial affairs during a marriage, as well as property division in the event of marital dissolution. A marriage agreement also addresses spousal support, if applicable.

Courts may view marriage agreements as outdated if they are not reviewed with proper regularity. Our lawyers create durable agreements and offer periodic revisions, to maintain integrity as well as the enforceability of the accords by the courts.

Cohabitation Agreements

Before living together, couples may wish to enter a written financial agreement, particularly when one or both parties own significant assets.

We ensure that you know how to protect your interests if your relationship ends.

Separation Agreements

When a marriage ends in divorce or separation, parties may wish to form an agreement regarding the terms of dissolution. We can develop a workable deal that addresses guardianship, parenting arrangements, child support, spousal support, and division of property.

Disputes Regarding Children

Child guardianship is usually the most crucial consideration in the ending of a relationship. The new Family Law Act (2013) introduced numerous changes to the family law framework in British Columbia, and it fundamentally altered individual rights, obligations, and expectations. Areas of consideration include, but are not limited to:

Best interests of children: Under the Family Law Act, this is the only factor considered when determining parenting arrangements or orders.

Guardianship: A guardian is a person who is responsible for caring for and making decisions for a child.

Parental responsibilities: Including ordinary or significant decisions concerning a child’s education, health care, religion, and residence.

Parenting time, contact, and arrangements: The time that a guardian or non-guardian spends with a child, as well as provisions that guardians make for sharing parental responsibilities and parenting time.

Decision making: On occasion, the Court will ask for external professional assessments to help determine the best living arrangement for a child or children.

Financial Issues

Child Support

Child support is the amount of money paid by one parent to the other for the care and upbringing of dependent children.

The federal government has introduced Child Support Guidelines — legislation that determines the amount of child support that is payable — based on the custody arrangement, the number of children, and the payor’s annual income.

In all Canadian provinces and territories, child support orders are decided by using Federal Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines contain tables listing the amount of child support a non-custodial parent must pay based on his or her income and the number of children.

Special and Extraordinary Expenses

In addition to child support, additional provisions for other expenses are available within Child Support Guidelines. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Childcare
  • Education and tutoring costs
  • Household expenses
  • Daycare expenses
  • Health expenses
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Post-secondary expenses

Our lawyers can help you understand these guidelines and negotiate a proper and binding child support agreement.

Spousal Support and Determination of Income

Precise determination of income for spousal support purposes is critical, though not always straightforward. Virgin Hickman tackles the complex issues involved in defending or questioning a stated amount of income, and we look beyond reported income values.

We work with a trusted network of resources, including forensic accountants and investigators, to create an accurate analysis of the other spouse’s income and assets. The investigation may include title searches for real estate or vehicles the other party owns but has not revealed.

If we find evidence that the other party has significant unreported income or hidden assets, the court can impute an actual income level that better reflects that spouse’s financial reality. We may also defend a client’s stated income.

With your financial future at stake, we dig deeper, and our lawyers regularly achieve positive outcomes for clients on both sides of this complicated matter.

Divorce

Every day, couples decide to separate or divorce. While the process of ending a relationship is not an easy one, our experienced lawyers can help you make the right decisions and come to a satisfactory resolution.

We will conduct a thorough assessment of your finances, assets, property, and issues related to your children. We will determine the appropriate course of action, which may include an attempt to negotiate or mediate a settlement.

A divorce can be granted only by the Supreme Court, and you must have a divorce if you want to re-marry. The court will issue a divorce if you or your spouse demonstrates a breakdown in the marriage by showing:

  • You have been separated (living apart) for at least one year
  • One spouse has committed adultery
  • One spouse was physically or mentally cruel to the other

Separation Agreements

If the two parties can come to a fair agreement on how to settle all pertinent issues, a separation agreement can be created outside of court. This agreement will contain detailed information on how to divide your property, finances, and time spent with your children. If you cannot agree on any issues related to the separation, court may be the best option.

Divorce and Foreclosure

Home foreclosure is a common concern for separating or divorcing couples. Couples often stop making payments on their matrimonial homes due to disputes over finances. Foreclosure proceedings complicate the divorce process, which is why it is vital to seek experienced legal counsel.

Our lawyers can help you determine your best options if your matrimonial home has gone into foreclosure.

Joint Debt

When two people share debt, and one person declares bankruptcy, it can have a significant impact on the person who is not declaring bankruptcy, and who might be considered liable for credit card and other joint debt.

In both bankruptcy and foreclosure, the positioning of your claim to property is critical. In divorce and separation, bankruptcy complicates the division of assets, especially in cases where one spouse declares bankruptcy before the issuance of a court order.

As one of the largest groups of family law practitioners in British Columbia, Virgin Hickman is known for knowledge and experience in all matters that accompany separation and divorce, including foreclosure and joint debt.

Mediation, Collaborative Law and Arbitration

For couples seeking an amicable resolution without going to court, Virgin Hickman offers mediation and collaborative law, also called collaborative separation and divorce.

Mediation

During mediation, parties attend a meeting with a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who leads a process to reach consensus on issues such as child custody and access, child support, and division of property.

The mediator is usually a family law lawyer, psychologist or other trained professional, with specialized training in mediation. Parties should seek legal advice during the mediation process.

We have family law mediators who can facilitate the process. Alternatively, we can provide legal representation or advice through the mediation process.

Collaborative Law

In a collaborative divorce, parties sign an agreement stating that they will not go to court, and will instead collaborate to resolve all issues amongst themselves, with the help of lawyers and other collaborative law professionals such as financial advisors, child specialists, and mental health professionals.

If either party decides to abandon this approach and go to trial, then both parties must retain new legal representation.

Arbitration

The British Columbia Commercial Arbitration Act governs family law arbitration, and specific rules apply to domestic commercial arbitrations.

The role of an arbitrator is similar to that of a judge, and arbitration involves collaborative processes such as negotiation and mediation. The affected parties can determine the arbitration process, but everyone must agree in writing before arbitration begins.

All family law arbitrators are required to meet Family Law Act training and practice standards. An arbitrator must be a lawyer, psychologist, or social worker with at least ten years’ experience in a family-related field.

Arbitration allows for more privacy than court decisions that are published and available to the public. Through arbitration, financial details and issues of behaviour are kept confidential. Arbitration can usually be accomplished more quickly than proceeding through court, and parties can tailor the terms of an agreement to suit their individual needs.