There is often a delay between a lawyer completing a client’s will, and that client being available to execute (sign) it. The Covid-19 Pandemic has only lengthened these delays, which can be problematic if the will-maker happens to pass away prior to executing the new will.

The Wills, Estates, and Succession Act, S.B.C. 2009, c. 13 (WESA) lays out the requirements for a valid will, including that the will must be duly executed by the will-maker. If a new will is found to be invalid, the pre-existing valid will governs the distribution of assets. However, s.58 of WESA provides that the court may choose to cure a formally invalid will. In order to use s.58, the court must first be satisfied that the will is authentic and that it represents the will-maker’s deliberate, fixed, and final intensions regarding the disposal of their property upon death.

In a recent case, Bishop Estate v. Sheardown, 2021 BCSC 1571, the will of 76-year-old Marilyn Bishop was brought before the court. A charity had been listed as a beneficiary in Ms. Bishop’s previous will made in 2014. In early 2020, Ms. Bishop instructed her lawyer to draft a new will that removed the charity and added new gifts to family members. Ms. Bishop had an appointment to execute the will on March 20, 2020. Unfortunately, Ms. Bishop was unable to meet in person with her lawyer due to the pandemic and passed away four months later without having executed her will.

The charity argued that Ms. Bishop’s failure to execute the will was evidence that she had changed her mind and that the new will did not represent her final intentions. The court rejected that argument, noting that Ms. Bishop had become closer to her family in the years leading up to her death thereby explaining the new gifts, that she had reviewed and filled in the blanks in the new will, and that Ms. Bishop’s failure to execute the will remotely was not evidence of a change of heart. Therefore, the court found that the new will satisfied the test in s.58 and ordered that it be fully effective.

If you have concerns about the validity of your will or other questions, please call Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.



Custody and access to children are complex issues requiring consideration of which circumstances would best benefit the interests of the child. Often, one or both parents may desire a change in custody or access. This can be accommodated so long as they can prove that a material change in circumstances has occurred since the last order was made.

A change can be said to be “material” if the situation presently in force would have resulted in a different order originally being made. Requests for variation are resolved entirely based on what will benefit the child, rather than what either of the parents want (Gordon v. Goertz, 1996 CanLII 191 (SCC)).

Variation is permitted under section 17 of the Divorce Act, which further stipulates that a parent’s newly developed terminal illness or critical condition qualifies as a change of circumstance. A child’s increased age and expressed wishes to spend less time with a parent can also constitute a material change ( M. (S.M.) v. H. (J.P.), 2016 BCCA 284). Intensified and more frequent conflict, if egregious enough, can also serve as a material change (Friedlander v. Claman, 2016 BCCA 434).

Section 47 of the Family Law Act also gives authority for a court to change an order of custody or access. Section 216 of the Family Law Act allows the court to address interim orders (K. (B.) v. B. (J.), 2015 BCSC 1481). Again, the parent desiring the order’s variation must prove a material change in circumstances. The change cannot be one that was contemplated and addressed in the prior order (Gordon v. Goertz, 1996 CanLII 191 (SCC)), such as a foreseen adjustment to a child’s extra-curricular soccer schedule. Material change can be shown through, for example, a parent becoming mentally ill, a child desiring to have less or more time with a parent, or a parent successfully completing counseling and improving their ability to be a guardian.

Although less frequently invoked, the court also has jurisdiction to change an interim order even if there has neither been a change in circumstances or new evidence. The court may only do so if a change would be in the best interests of the child (R. (R.) v. L. (S.), 2016 BCSC 1230. If you have concerns about your family matters, please contact Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.

Through the Notice to Mediate (Family) Regulation, BC Reg 296/2007, a party to a family law proceeding may require the other spouse to participate in mediation with them. Mediation, if successful, can have many benefits including a shorter timeline, decreased cost, and lower conflict. It’s also much less formal than court, and private.

A notice to mediate can be served on the other party at any point that is 90 days’ time after the first response to the family claim is filed, and 90 days’ time before the date of the trial. The parties must agree on which mediator to select, and if they cannot, any party may apply to a roster organization that maintains a list of experienced mediators who would be sufficient. The roster organization will provide a list of options, and the Regulation then requires parties to eliminate certain mediators to which they object. The roster organization will make the final call on who the mediator will be, taking into account the parties’ indicated preferences, the mediator’s qualifications and fee, and scheduling availability.

The mediator is required to hold separate pre-mediation appointments with each party, where they’ll screen for potential power imbalance or abuse. If this appointment leads the mediator to believe that the process would be inappropriate or unproductive, they can conclude the mediation at that point and the parties will need to go through with litigation. Parties are not obligated to settle all or any of their issues at mediation but must attend and participate in good faith. Mediation requires parties to be reasonable, relatively calm, and open to negotiation. Considering how emotionally charged separation is for many individuals, mediation certainly isn’t the answer for everyone, but it may be worth an attempt.


Both the Divorce Act and the Family Law Act give authority to change the amount of spousal support that must be paid, and although worded differently, both acts require a change in circumstances before the variation is warranted. It’s important to bring the variation application under the Act which the support order was originally made under; the Family Law Act cannot be invoked to change a support order made under the Divorce Act (Malbon v. Malbon, 2017 BCCA 427), and vice versa.

The factors for the court to consider when asked to change spousal support are set out in section 17 (4.1) of the Divorce Act and Section 167 of the Family Law Act. In case law, a substantial change of circumstances has been constituted by multiple scenarios including:

• A change in income;
• A change in expenses;
• Retirement;
• Re-partnering; and
• A change of residence for the child.

If parties presume the payor’s income will somewhat fluctuate, but instead it increases significantly, the situation will likely meet the requirement of a substantial change in circumstances (Jennens v. Jennens, 2020 BCCA 59). Purposeful, voluntary changes made to one’s life, such as taking a larger mortgage for a shorter amortization, will not lead to a change of support (Poon v. Poon, 2005 BCCA 60).

A foundational principle of the spousal support obligation is that payor’s must compensate their spouses when that spouse’s contributions to the family allowed the payor to obtain the high income they later benefit from (Judd v. Judd, 2010 BCSC 153).

Voluntary retirement is typically more carefully analyzed by the courts than forced retirement. When considering if retirement justifies changing support obligations, the courts will look at age, background, employment opportunities, and the objectives of the support order (Brouwer v. Brouwer, 2019 BCSC 274). In Cramer v. Cramer, 2000 BCCA 272, the payor was forced to retire due to a health condition, the estate had been split equally originally, and the payee spouse had failed to follow through with educational plans that would have led to financial self-sufficiency. The payor’s retirement constituted a change in circumstances and the spousal support was terminated entirely.

Remarriage or re-partnering alone is not sufficient to trigger a material change in circumstances (Morigeau v. Moorey, 2013 BCSC 1923). But when combined with other factors such as an increase in the payee’s workplace earnings, the requirement can be met (Clarke v. Clarke, 2014 BCSC 824). A change in the children’s residence, meaning an increase in expenses for the parent who is primarily caring for them, can constitute a change in circumstances sufficient to vary spousal support (Aspe v. Aspe, 2010 BCCA 508). . If you’d like assistance with resolving any family matters, please contact Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.

When relationships dissolve, parties often become concerned that their property will be disposed of or encumbered against their wishes. Property division will be addressed and ultimately resolved as separations move forward, but until agreements are finalized, it may be beneficial for spouses to take certain interim measures. The three types of entries often registered against the title of a property with the Land Title Office are:

• A certificate of pending litigation;
• A Land (Spouse Protection) Act entry; and
• A caveat.

While a certificate of pending litigation (“CPL”) does not create rights to the property which the party did not have before, it does provide notice to would-be creditors or buyers that an interest in the property is being claimed. This dissuades the vast majority of creditors or buyers, with the affect that the property is protected from disposition or encumbrance. The CPL is registered against the title of the property and can be filed against property owned by either or both spouses. A CPL may only be registered once the family law proceedings have begun.

If the property is held in the sole name of one spouse, the other spouse may make a Land (Spouse Protection) Act entry against it. Entries may not be made if the property is held in joint tenancy. The entry will prevent the property from being disposed of without consent. Entries can be made before court action has been commenced but must be made within one year of the spouses residing together in the home. The Land (Spouse Protection) Act has specific forms for the entry application and affidavit. Spouses must have been married or have been in a marriage-like relationship of at least two years.

Finally, if it’s not possible to apply for a CPL or Land (Spouse Protection) Act entry, a caveat may be used. A caveat is a temporary measure registered against the title of property owned by the other spouse. Caveats must be applied for through the correct form offered by the Land Title and Survey Authority, and lapse two months after their registration.
Not anyone can apply for the entries listed above; only people who are spouses or parties to the family law case may apply. If you have concerns about your property or family matters, please contact Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.

Religious-based contracts, such as a Maher, can create increased complexity for the family justice system. A Maher is a contract which some Muslim couples will enter into upon marriage. The Maher can have the effect of requiring the husband pay the wife a specified amount of money if divorce occurs. The value can often be extravagant, such as hundreds of gold coins.

In Kariminia v. Nasser, 2018 BCSC 695, the court ordered that an Islamic marriage contract should be upheld such that the husband was required to pay the wife the value of 114 Bahar Azadi gold coins, equivalent to $49,020 CAD, upon the breakdown of their marriage. The court held that, as per Bruker v. Marcovitz, [2007] S.C.J. No. 54, a dispute can be addressed in the judicial atmosphere even if it has a religious aspect.

Further, people can freely choose to transfer moral obligations related to their religious orders into legal obligations. In upholding the Maher, the court further noted that Canadian law acknowledges cultural diversity (Nathoo v. Nathoo, [1996] B.C.J. No. 2720 (B.C. S.C.)). Ultimately, the Maher in Kariminia was an amount which the husband could realistically pay, the document was signed by both parties, and could be upheld as a valid marriage contract.

On multiple other occasions, the courts have also interpreted contracts for Maher by considering if they’re enforceable “marriage agreements” under family law legislation. In M. (N.M.) v. M. (N.S.), 2004 BCSC 346, the court held that the husband was aware of and understood the amount stipulated in the Maher. He recognized that the Maher was a legally binding document, and wished to marry in compliance with it and the Ismaili faith. The wife in M. (N.M.) was entitled to $51,250. In Amlani v. Hirani, 2000 BCSC 1653, a Maher was again upheld as a valid marriage contract under the Family Relations Act. As a note, the current Family Law Act would apply to marriage contracts entered into after March 2013.

Both the current Family Law Act and the prior Family Relations Act give the courts power to set aside agreements regarding property division on the basis of unfairness. And in Delvarani v. Delvarani, 2012 BCSC 162, the court did just that. The Maher was for the amount of 3000 Bahar Azadi gold coins, which equated to $750,000 CAD. The court held that the husband likely didn’t agree to this payout, especially on top of the financial obligations he’d already have to abide by under BC law. There was no connection between this exorbitant amount of money and the short duration of the marriage, the needs of the wife, nor the husband’s ability to pay.


While the decisions of children’s parents will be given deference by the courts, grandparents have the right to make applications for access to their grandchildren. Section 59 of the Family Law Act authorizes the court to grant contact with the child to a person who is not a guardian, such as a grandparent. The court will make its decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Factors that may contribute to the court ordering contact between grandchild and grandparent include a strong existing relationship between the parties, the grandparents’ home offering stability and emotional wellbeing, and the child having their physiological needs met, such as healthy food being available. Factors that negate the court ordering contact include safety concerns, scheduling or transport concerns, or the child being exposed to family conflict or violence.

It’s important to note that grandparents are not entitled to access to the grandchild as a right. In Branconnier v. Branconnier, 2006 BCSC 2020, the twin boys’ mother reduced the time they were spending with their grandparents. The mother did so because the grandparents were spoiling the children with excessive sugary treats and gifts, and failing to provide a structured environment. The court held that the mother’s decision was reasonable and put the best interests of the children paramount.

Addressing family concerns and parenting time can be emotionally draining.

Heath Law LLP would be pleased to assist with your needs.

In certain circumstances, a party required to pay child support may need to claim undue hardship under section 10 of the Federal Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”).This means that the party would be caused to suffer unduly if made to pay the full amount of support originally required. If the party shows the court why they’re unable to pay the amount of support determined under the Guidelines, the court may reduce the value they’re obligated to pay.

Circumstances that may cause a party to suffer undue hardship include:
• The spouse has responsibility for an unusually high level of debt reasonably incurred to support the spouses and their children prior to the separation or to earn a living;
• The spouse has unusually high expenses in relation to exercising parenting time with a child; or
• The spouse has a legal duty to support any person who is unable to obtain the necessities of life due to an illness or disability.

The party claiming undue hardship must also prove that they have a lower standard of living than their ex-spouse. It’s typically very difficult to prove undue hardship because it’s viewed as unfair for one spouse to pay less than the Guideline requirement of support.

In Kelly v. Kelly, 2011 BCCA 173, the judge made it clear that future courts must very carefully exercise their discretion to order a different amount of support (para. 35). The objectives of the Guidelines should not be circumvented; predictability and consistency in support obligations are key components of our family justice system.

If you have any questions, please call Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.

Under section 224 of the Family Law Act, the courts have power to require parties attend counselling. This can be in the form of family dispute resolution or individual counselling. The courts can even order a child attend counselling without their guardians’ consent. This broad power of the court must be exercised in a manner that best respects the interests of the child. Counselling for children can be extremely beneficial, especially in situations of high family conflict or violence. Recognizing this, the Family Law Act also authorizes the courts to allocate the cost of counselling or other related services between the litigation parties, or to require only one party pay.

Particularly for young children who are more vulnerable to potential alienation from a parent, the court may order counselling. In C.H.T. v. P.V.L., 2015 BCSC 419, two children, aged 10 and 13, were estranged from their father. The court held that the objective should be that the children repair and reintegrate their relationship with their father, and that both parents must also follow the counsellor’s recommendations.

The age of the children and their expressed wishes will be taken into account when the court makes a decision regarding ordering counselling. In M.Y.T.C. v. L.H.N., 2018 BCSC 1174, the parties’ 15-year-old son was estranged from his mother. The son had clearly expressed that he did not want to go to counselling, and would meet any efforts to force him to go with resistance. The court held that ordering him into counselling would only further damage the relationship with his mother.

We understand how challenging it can be to navigate emotionally charged family matters. Our lawyers strive to resolve issues with minimal toll to clients.

If you have any questions, please call Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.


If a party to a separation has concerns that their ex-spouse might dispose of family property, or deal with it in a way which adversely affects their interests, a section 91 order may help. The Family Law Act requires that, on application by a spouse, the Supreme Court make an order restraining the other spouse from disposing of any property at issue. These orders are often made mutually, such that both spouses are restrained from deposing of property, pending a resolution of the matters.

This type of order is a form of interim relief, and can only be applied for by a party who has standing under the FLA. To have standing, the party must be married, divorced, separated, or have lived with their ex in a marriage-like relationship of over two years.

Situations in which it may be beneficial to apply for a section 91 order include:
• A spouse refuses to communicate regarding assets;
• A spouse is likely to declare bankruptcy;
• A spouse making attempts to transfer or sell assets; or
• A spouse using substantial amounts of a line of credit.

Finally, applications for section 91 orders can be made prior to having to attend a Judicial Case Conference, which is very beneficial considering the lengthy wait times to be able to attend a JCC.
For more information regarding family law and property matters, please call Heath Law LLP to book a consultation.