Sometimes no matter what you try when you're trying to reach an agreement on your family law matters, nothing seems to work. This is normal. Separation is emotional and difficult. It takes time to work through all the issues. There are professionals who are specially trained who can help you:

Family justice counsellors

Family justice counsellors give free services to families dealing with separation, including mediation services. They can also:

  • give information about the law and about Provincial (Family) Court process,
  • give referrals,
  • help you fill out family court forms, and
  • help you plan a separation agreement.

How to find a family justice counsellor

Family justice counsellors are government employees who work at Family Justice Centres across BC. To contact a family justice counsellor, call Service BC.

Service BC
604-660-2421 (Greater Vancouver)
250-387-6121 (Greater Victoria)
1-800-663-7867 (no charge elsewhere in BC)

Ask to transfer to a family justice counsellor near you.


A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you reach an agreement. Mediators are specially trained to help people discuss their issues and resolve conflict. See All About Mediation for information on how mediation can help you.

How to find a mediator

Family lawyers

You can hire a lawyer to give you legal advice or help you with steps along the way. Or they can represent you for your whole case.

Tell the lawyer your goal is to negotiate the issues, not fight about them.

How to find a family lawyer

The Lawyer Referral Service can give you the name of a family law lawyer. You can meet with the lawyer for up to 30 minutes for $25 (plus taxes) to discuss your case.

Lawyer Referral Service

If you can't afford to hire a lawyer

You may be eligible for free legal advice over the phone through Legal Aid BC’s Family LawLINE.

Legal Aid BC
604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (no charge outside Greater Vancouver)

Remember — You don't need to go to court

Even if you hire a lawyer, it doesn't mean that you have to go to court. Most lawyers will write a letter to your spouse explaining that you've hired them to start or continue negotiations. They'll let your spouse know that you want to reach a settlement.

And of course, the lawyer will be there if nothing works and you have to start a court proceeding.

Collaborative family lawyers

With collaborative family law, you and your spouse agree to work with collaborative family lawyers to find solutions that work for both of you. You and your spouse each have your own lawyer.

Collaborative family law is different from the traditional separation proceedings:

  • No court — You, your spouse, and your lawyers sign an agreement to resolve your issues without going to court.
  • Honest communication — You and your spouse agree in writing to open and honest communication. This includes openly sharing information, such as information about your finances.
  • Team approach — Lawyers, divorce coaches, child specialists, and financial advisors can help. You, your lawyers, and coaches will work as a team.
  • Four-way meetings — Instead of letting your lawyers do the talking, you and your spouse and your lawyers participate in a series of meetings.

Since collaborative family law involves hiring lawyers and other professionals, it can be expensive.

How to find a collaborative family lawyer

See the following websites:

Or the Lawyer Referral Service can give you the name of a family law lawyer. You can meet with the lawyer for up to 30 minutes for $25 (plus taxes) to discuss your case.

Lawyer Referral Service


You can pay a family law arbitrator to decide some or all of your family law matters for you.

An arbitrator acts like a judge. They’ll make a written decision that’s legally binding and that the court can enforce. The arbitrator must be accredited with the Law Society of BC. Their decisions must follow family law in BC.

Before the arbitrator makes a decision, everyone must agree on what rules apply. For example, you, your spouse, and the arbitrator must agree on how the arbitrator will hear evidence and arguments from both sides.

You also must agree on:

  • what the issues are,
  • how you’ll share financial information,
  • whether you need experts to help, and
  • how you’ll pay the arbitrator.

This is so everyone is heard before the arbitrator makes their decision. Usually, you and your spouse each have your own lawyer.

How to find an arbitrator

Lawyer Referral Service