There’s a new way for separated couples to resolve parenting disputes! It’s online, confidential and free.
When parents separate, they need a plan for parenting that’s in the best interests of their children. But it can sometimes be hard to agree on issues like parenting time, vacations, and other important decisions affecting the children. Lawyers and mediators can help. However, in BC people who can’t afford professional help can only get a lawyer for a family matter through Legal Aid if the situation is very serious, for example, when family violence is a factor.
The newest service offered by BC’s Legal Services Society (“BC Legal Aid”) is a negotiation and mediation tool for parenting issues that’s been added to their MyLawBC web platform. The first free service of its kind for parents in Canada, it’s an innovative way for BC Legal Aid to serve low income parents who are not able to hire a lawyer or have one paid by Legal Aid.
Now parents can use the new service, called the “MyLawBC Family Resolution Centre”, to work out their issues and create a written parenting plan. If they wish, they can turn their plan into a written agreement or present it to a court as a consent order.
If parents using the online negotiation tool find they can’t agree on some topics, they can request the help of a professional family law mediator. The Family Resolution Centre will provide up to five hours free help from a mediator qualified under the BC Family Law Act.
Why use the Family Resolution Centre?
• Mediation can help to resolve parenting issues out of court.
• Parents can log in and work on a parenting plan wherever they like, and whenever they want.
• It’s confidential and secure.
• They can ask for the help of a mediator if they get stuck.
• They can learn how to incorporate their parenting plan in a separation agreement or court order.
How does it work?
• Parents carefully choose the options they think will work best for their child.
• They discuss them online with each other.
• If they can’t agree, they can ask for a mediator to help.
• They then work with the mediator to reach agreement on as many issues as possible.
• Once both agree, they can download their parenting plan, have it reviewed by lawyers, and sign it or return to discuss any changes suggested by the lawyers.
The Family Resolution Centre is part of Legal Aid’s MyLawBC - a unique, interactive website that helps people solve a variety of common legal problems, including drafting a will, missed mortgage payments, family breakdown, and negotiating a separation agreement.
Other mediation services
There are other options for free family mediation in BC. Family Justice Counsellors provide free family mediation services at Family Justice Centres and Justice Access Centres throughout BC. In Victoria, people with Provincial Court family disputes must meet with a Family Justice Counsellor and, unless there has been family violence, complete at least one mediation session before going to court. Volunteer lawyers offer free mediation services for some family court disputes at Richmond and Robson Square Provincial Courthouses. And the Access Pro Bono Society of BC offers eligible clients free mediation services to resolve their family law disputes. In addition, Mediate BC maintains a list of qualified mediators who charge for their services.
Get legal advice before signing
Like other mediation services, MyLawBC encourages people to get legal advice before signing a binding agreement, and connects them to free advice services. An evaluation of MyLawBC found it was successful in getting site users to connect with lawyers – 25% of people who completed a MyLawBC family pathway retained lawyers privately and 42% took advantage of the free legal advice services BC Legal Aid offers – the Family LawLine or Family Duty Counsel.
To use the Family Resolution Centre and the family mediation service, go to MyLawBC (mylawbc.com) and click on “Mediation Tool.”