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Vancouver Family Law Blog

British Columbia family law: When a child's paternity is an issue

When the paternity of a child is an issue, there are things that need to be done when it comes to child support. However, family law in British Columbia stipulates that even when a man turns out not to be the biological father of a child, he still may be financially responsible for that child. There are a number of things in British Columbia laws that suggest a man is a father of a child.

These things include: if he was married to the child's mother when the child was born; if he was married to the mother and within 300 days before the baby was born, the marriage ended by divorce or his death; if he married the child's mother after the baby was born, but she says he is the father; if both agree he is the father and his name is on the birth certificate; if he was living in a common law relationship with the child's mother at the time the child was born or 300 days before the birth; if he agrees he is the father and signs an agreement  under the Child Paternity and Support Act. If he meets any of these criteria and ultimately denies he is the father, the onus will be on him to prove otherwise. Legal advice may be necessary.

Family law: When a woman wants to keep her married name

When a couple divorces, there may be something a former wife wants to keep that makes her former husband scratch his head: his surname. There is no set rule in family law in Alberta that says she can't do that, but if it's a bone of contention, the man can always make it a part of the divorce agreement. If a man is adamant he doesn't want his former wife to keep his surname and yet she wants to, he may have to make some concessions to get her agreement.

There are several reasons a woman may wish to keep her married surname. Usually if a couple has been married for several years, her last name may be a part of her professional identity that she doesn't wish to relinquish. If the name is well-known in social circles, that could be another reason she would choose to keep it, rather than revert to her birth surname.

Don't forget about dividing your debts in divorce

As you and your spouse near the end of your marriage, you may have concerns about your financial future. One important step in ensuring you do not face your post-divorce life with financial struggles is to fight for a fair and equitable division of your marital assets. For you, this may include obtaining a reasonable appraisal of some valuables and even searching for hidden or forgotten assets.

However, even if you obtain a generous portion of community property, you may still be at risk of financial hardship if you end up with a disproportionate share of your family's debt. Many couples overlook their debt when they consider splitting their belongings, and this may leave them with an unfair burden to carry into their newly single life.

Family law: Protecting an inheritance during a divorce

Divorce can stir up some nasty emotions. Luckily, in Alberta, there are family law rules in place that provide guidelines for some possible contentious issues like division of property and other assets. These laws can sometimes overlap into other other areas. For instance, how would one go about safeguarding a downpayment on a house that has been given as a gift when going through a divorce?

The most succinct way of doing that is by having a marriage contract or cohabitation agreement in place. Any money that has been given as a gift should be kept separately from any joint accounts, especially when there is no contract in place. If it is commingled in a joint account, it may be considered to be a family asset and up for division should the relationship or marriage end. 

Children's issues: UN convention protects children's rights

Canada ratified the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. The convention speaks to many children's issues also faced by children in British Columbia, and stipulates that children have the right to be protected, the right to development and the right to give their feedback when it comes to decisions that affect their lives. Children, the convention says, have the right to a basic quality of life and as such are entitled to advocates on their behalf, which could, and often does, include lawyers.

Provinces and territories in Canada changed a number of laws dealing with children's rights. As such, those deployed in armed conflicts and those children in the care of the government have access to advocates to help them when they have no one else. The convention has gone a long way in the area of children's issues, yet there is still child poverty, neglect, abuse, homelessness and other issues adversely affecting kids. It is up to adults, the convention adamantly states, to shield children from these things and to work together to provide housing, clean water, food, education and services that can help children to grow into happy, healthy and productive adults.

Family law: Parental abduction is a criminal offence

There is nothing worse for a parent to think that his or her child could be in harm's way. No parent wants to believe his or her former spouse and the parent of his or her child would do anything to hurt their children. But when British Columbia couples are going through high-conflict divorces, one person may take the children somewhere without the knowledge of the other. This is a serious family law issue that could result in an accusation of parental abduction, and there are laws in place to protect children and hold parents accountable when they do things they shouldn't.

Statistics show that a few hundred kids in Canada get abducted each year by a parent. About 10% of  them – if they or that parent were born outside of Canada – are taken back to their or their parent's country of origin. A parent who thinks his or her former spouse might be inclined to do this should heed the warning signs, such as when the other parent makes threats about taking the child, exhibits stalking or harassing behaviour, or fights incessantly about access or custody issues. A parent might also be angry about a decision made by a family court judge and might choose to take matters into his or her own hands by removing the children.

Understand your legal options. Make informed decisions. Contact the family law lawyers of Henderson Heinrichs LLP


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