April 20, 2009

When does a Step-Parent Have to Pay Child Support?

It's a common misconception that only biological parents have a child support obligation when a relationship breaks down. Rather, the law states that where a step-parent or common law partner of someone with a child has been standing in the role of a parent, known as in loco parentis, the court will order that person to pay child support, even though they are not biologically related to the child.

However, child support will only be ordered where the person is found to be a "parent", which is a defined term under the Family Relations Act:

A "parent" includes
(a) a guardian or guardian of the person of a child, or
(b) a stepparent of a child if
(i) the stepparent contributed to the support and maintenance of the child for at least one year, and
(ii) the proceeding under this Act by or against the stepparent is commenced within one year after the date the stepparent last contributed to the support and maintenance of the child;

Section 1(2) of the Act states:

(2) For the purpose of paragraph (b) of the definition of "parent" in subsection (1), a person is the stepparent of a child if the person and a parent of the child
(a) are or were married, or
(b) lived together in a marriage-like relationship for a period of at least 2 years and, for the purposes of this Act, the marriage-like relationship may be between persons of the same gender.

So to summarize, the court will only order a step-parent to pay child support where three conditions are met.

The step-parent:
  • was either in a marriage-like (common law) relationship with the child's parent for at least two years OR married to the child's parent for any length of time; AND
  • contributed to the child's support or maintenance for at least one year; AND
  • last contributed to the child's maintenance or support within one year of the date that the child support claim was filed with the court.

This last point means that if the biological parent starts a court action for child support more than a year after the step-parent last contributed to the child's maintenance, the court will almost certainly dismiss the case because it is after the limitation date in the Act.

April 16, 2009

Free Family, Wills and Consumer Protection Law Classes Next Week

The People’s Law School provides public legal education to all residents in British Columbia and whenever possible, they also provide public legal education to people in British Columbia’s immigrant communities in their own languages. The People’s Law School is an independent, non-profit, non-political society whose purpose is to provide British Columbians – especially those with particular legal needs – with reliable and impartial information about the law. They accomplish this by means of speakers, training workshops, publications, theatre, and special events.

For more information, please visit www.publiclegaled.bc.ca.

The following classes have been arranged through the Speaker Request Program at the People's Law School. Attendance must be confirmed for a minimum of fifteen people before the class can go ahead.

Family Law
Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Surrey Public Library, Guildford Branch
15105 – 105th Avenue, Surrey
RSVP: Johanne Walesch, 604.598.7366

Speaker: G Creighton Scott, Peterson Stark Scott

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Surrey Public Library, Whalley Branch
10347 – 135th Street, Surrey
RSVP: Ilona Sachura, 604.598.7428

Speaker: David Halkett, McQuarrie Hunter LLP

Thursday, April 23, 2009 -2:00pm to 3:30pm
Surrey Public Library, Semiahmoo Branch
1815 – 152nd Street, Surrey
RSVP: Ilona Stachur, 604.598.7428

Speaker: Renee Aldana,Greig, Wilson & Rasmussen

Immigration Law (in Punjabi)
Monday, April 20, 2009 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Surrey Public Library, Fleetwood Branch
15996 – 84th Avenue, Surrey
RSVP: Harjinder Thind, 604.598.7346

Speaker: Barinder Sanghera, Sanghera Law Group

Saturday, April 25, 2009 - 10:00am to 11:30am
Surrey Public Library, Strawberry Hill Branch
7399 – 122nd Street, Surrey
RSVP: Tania Tong, 604.501.5839

Speaker: Ajeet Kang, Kang & Company

Scams to Avoid
Saturday, April 25, 2009 - 9:30am to 10:45am
Alma Van Dusen Room
Vancouver Public Library
350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
RSVP: Caroline Wilson, 604.331.5412

Speaker: Simone Lis, Better Business Bureau

Also offered in French
"Méfiez-vous des arnaques!"
Saturday, April 25, 2009 - 2:00 to 3:00pm
227- 1555 West 7th avenue, Vancouver
Information: 778.373.3931

Speaker: Lloyd Duhaime

Wills and Estates
Monday, April 20, 2009 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
Surrey Public Library, Cloverdale Branch
5642 – 176A Street, Surrey
RSVP: Laurie Cook, 604.598.7326

Speaker: Richard Wenner, Hamilton, Duncan, Armstrong & Stewart Law Corporation

Monday, April 20, 2009 -10:00am to 11:30am
Surrey Public Library, Ocean Park Branch
12854 – 17th Avenue, Surrey
RSVP: Eva Wilson, 604.502.6449

Speaker: Kim Karras,Brawn, Karras & Sanderson

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
Burnaby Public Library
6100 Willingdon Avenue, Burnaby
RSVP: Yail Waisman, 604.436.5400

Speaker: Donald Drysdale, Drysdale Bacon McStravick

Saturday, April 25, 2009 - 11:15am to 12:30pm
Alma Van Dusen Room
Vancouver Public Library
350 West Georgia Street, Vancouver
RSVP: Caroline Wilson, 604.331.5412

Speaker: Ken Kramer, KMK Law Corporation

Also offered in French
"Testaments et successions"
Saturday, April 25, 2009 - 4:00 to 5:00pm
227- 1555 West 7th avenue, Vancouver
Information: 778.373.3931

Speaker: Lloyd Duhaime

[Source: Canadian Bar Association, B.C. Branch]

April 14, 2009

Vancouver Law Day - April 25, 2009

Law Day 2009, an annual event put on by the Canadian Bar Association - B.C. Branch provides the public with the opportunity to learn about the law, the legal profession and the legal institutions that form the cornerstones of our Canadian democracy.

On Saturday, April 25th from 10am to 3om all residents of the Greater Vancouver area are invited to come down to the Central Vancouver Public Library, located at 350 West Georgia Street (between Homer, Hamilton and Robson Streets). At Law Day, the public can learn what the justice system is doing to keep us safe on the streets and in our homes while upholding the rights of all Canadians under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Some events which may be helpful for those needing legal advice are:
  • "Scams to Avoid", a free law class from 9:30am - 10:45am in the Alma Vandusen room at the Vancouver Public Library.
  • "Wills and Estates", a free law class from 11:15am-12:30pm, also at the Alma Vandusen room at the Vancouver Public Library.
  • "Dial a Lawyer", Lower Mainland residents are invited to call 604.687.3221 between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to speak with a lawyer for up to 15 minutes at no cost.

More information about Law Day is available from the Canadian Bar Association (B.C.).

April 8, 2009

Free Advice From a Lawyer Over the Phone

Recent cuts to the Legal Services Society (LSS) have meant that fewer people qualify for legal aid. One alternative still provided by LSS is LawLINE "a free phone service of the Legal Services Society (LSS) designed to help people who don't qualify for a legal aid lawyer to represent them. LawLINE provides legal advice and information to people who qualify financially and have a legal issue" that LawLINE covers. LawLINE actually covers quite a bit:

Debtors' assistance
Bill disputes
Credit card debts
Debt collection
Loans, including student loans
Tax debt and related issues

Employment law issues
Employment insurance
Family law issues
Child and spousal support
Child protection
Property division

Health, estates law, and seniors' issues
Adult guardianship
Estate administration
Intestacy (where a deceased person has not left a will or a valid will)
Long-term care
Patients' rights
Powers of attorney
Probate / letters of administration

Housing law related issues
BC Housing
Co-op disputes
Disputes on reserve
Residential tenancy
Strata matters where you may lose your housing

Income security law related issues
Child tax & disability benefits
Canada Pension Plan / Old Age Security / pensions
Victim assistance disputes

LawLINE does not cover:

buying or selling a home (conveyancing matters)
consumer rights
criminal law matters
defamation claims
human rights
immigration and refugee matters
incorporating a company or shareholder disputes
medical malpractice claims
neighbour disputes
pardon for a criminal conviction
personal injury claims
property tax assessment disputes
representation in court or other hearings
veterans benefits
workers’ compensation claims

After the initial screening, LawLINE will transfer the caller to a lawyer or paralegal to provide legal advice. While services are conducted in English, interpreters can be arranged. Callers can also access recorded messages about LSS services in six languages: Cantonese, English, French, Mandarin, Punjabi, and Spanish.

To contact LawLINE, please call the Legal Services Society at:

604-408-2172 (in the Lower Mainland)
1-866-577-2525 (no charge, outside the Lower Mainland)
9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday)
9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (Wednesday)

April 5, 2009

How Funding Legal Aid Keeps You Free

The Legal Services Society's cuts to legal aid, announced last January, mean that as of last Wednesday, people charged with breaches of bail or probation conditions no longer receive legal aid, and instead get a few minutes with a duty lawyer prior to their trial.

This has a number of criminal defense lawyers warning that legal aid cuts in the short term may end up costing us a lot more in the long term, as people charged with these breaches are advised to tell the judge that they have not been provided with access to a lawyer, contrary to section 10(b) of the Charter. Section 10(b) provides that on arrest or detention, everyone has the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right.

David Hopkins, a Vancouver criminal lawyer says he expects that "many people will be advised by the duty counsel to argue in court that under the Charter of Rights they have a right to a lawyer and to demand a stay of proceedings. That's going to be a real drain on the system. We can certainly expect a dramatic increase in the amount of court time that is going to be devoted to those cases."

Clint Sadlemyer, a Nanaimo criminal lawyer, agrees, anticipating that the courts will be hearing many more Rowbotham applications, where people apply to court for an order that the province pay for their legal defense. The test in a Rowbotham application is whether the accused is in jeopardy of going to jail, whether they have unsuccessfully sought legal aid and whether they have funds for their own defence. Sadlemyer's view is that "it's fair game to apply for legal aid, and when refused to apply for a stay of the charge until the state will pay".

Alongside the backlog and expense these applications would bring, there is a deeper cost to cutting representation for those charged with probation or bail violations, which carry penalties of up to six months in jail. Our legal system's highest value is that individuals should only be deprived of their liberty in accordance with the rule of law. Integral to that concept is the right to have someone who understands the law represent your interests in court.

Toying with this right in circumstances where liberty is at stake sets a dangerous precedent, not only for those accused of offenses, but for all of us. The rights we count on as average, law-abiding people, including that we will not be taken by the police and thrown in jail except by the rule of law, are not won in legislatures and universities. They are fought for everyday in the dingy, embattled courtrooms of 222 Main Street by underpaid legal aid lawyers on behalf of often less than exemplary clients. The fights that happen there force the police, and the state at large, to respect the Charter which safeguards liberty for all of us.

April 1, 2009

More Accountability...(May be) Coming Soon to a Strata Council Near You

On March 27, 2009 the B.C. government introduced a bill amending the Strata Property Act to increase strata council accountability and make it easier for strata owners to resolve their disputes. Unfortunately, the legislature adjourned yesterday and so the bill is set to die on the order paper, possibly to be revived after the next election. This is too bad, since the amendments offered some very valuable changes to the cumbersome and gap-filled provisions currently in the Act. The proposed changes include:

  • Mediation and arbitration provisions to avoid having to go to court for relief against the strata corporation;

  • Allowing strata owners to bring their claims in Small Claims Court, where its easier to represent yourself, rather than in the B.C. Supreme Court as the Act currently requires;

  • Rules for strata counsel members who are in a conflict of interest;

  • Enabling owners to force the strata council to call a meeting for the purpose of hearing the owner's complaint;

  • Making more strata records available to owners and tenants upon request; and

  • Increasing the strata council's financial accountability though more rules and better disclosure.

No matter who is elected in May, let's hope that the legislature passes these long awaited changes to the Act so that strata owners have better corporate governance over their own homes.