Family Law – Am I Entitled to Interim Spousal Support?

If you are separating or divorcing, you may be entitled to an order for interim spousal support – an order for spousal support before a final order settling divorce, property, support, childcare and other matters.

In Zhang v. He, 2018 BCSC 1622, the court detailed the principles that the Court must consider and applied those principles to find that the claimant was entitled to interim spousal support.

The Court began the spousal support analysis by stating the objectives in determining spousal support from both the Family Law Act (BC) and the federal Divorce Act:

(a) to recognize any economic advantages or disadvantages to the spouses arising from the relationship between the spouses or the breakdown of that relationship;
(b) to apportion between the spouses any financial consequences arising from the care of their child, beyond the duty to provide support for the child;
(c) to relieve any economic hardship of the spouses arising from the breakdown of the relationship between the spouses;
(d) as far as practicable, to promote the economic self-sufficiency of each spouse within a reasonable period of time (at para 19).

The Court then noted that the principles applicable on an application for interim spousal support are:

  1. The applicant’s needs and the respondent’s ability to pay assume greater significance;
  2. An interim support order should be sufficient to allow the applicant to continue living at the same standard of living enjoyed prior to separation if the payor’s ability to pay warrants it;
  3. On interim support applications the court does not embark on an in depth analysis of the parties’ circumstances which is best left for trial;
  4.  The courts should not unduly emphasise any one of the statutory considerations set out above;
  5. On interim orders the need to achieve self-sufficiency is often of less significance; and
  6.  Interim support should be ordered within the range suggested by the Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines unless exceptional circumstances indicate otherwise (at para 23).

In applying the above principles, the Court awarded the Claimant interim spousal support on the grounds that:

  • the claimant left a well-paying job in China to move to Canada, and the decision to move was a joint decision after the parties married;
  • the claimant’s English was lacking and she intended to upgrade her education to acquire employment skills and improve her English;
  • neither party would be able to continue living to the same standard as when they were still together; and
  • the respondent was well educated and the parties’ child was in daycare, so the respondent would be able to work while the claimant attended school (at paras. 24 – 30).

In all the circumstances, the claimant was found to have income of $18,000.00 and the respondent was found to have income of $118,968.00 (at para 31). The court found that the respondent must pay the claimant interim spousal support in the “low range” and awarded the claimant $1,105.00 per month until agreement of the parties or further order of the Court.

If you would like to book an appointment with any of our family law lawyers, namely Kathleen Sugiyama, Christopher Murphy or Nathan Seaward, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202 or TOLL FREE: 1-866-753-2202.

There are three levels of Courts in British Columbia; Provincial Court, Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal.  Each Court plays a different role in our legal system. For example, provincial Court is set up to adjudicate smaller claims of value up to $35,000.00. Whereas, Supreme Court is generally for claims above $35,000.00 in value. Supreme Court is also where Provincial Court decisions are appealed. The Court of Appeal is specifically for appealing the decisions of the Supreme Court.

It is important to consider the level of Court when considering the type of remedy or solution that would work best within your specific circumstances, as only the Supreme Court can provide certain orders. For example, in order to stop a party from causing further damage to your property, it may be best to ask the Court for injunctive relief, and order, meaning that the Court will order a party to stop from performing a certain action. However, only the Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to offer injunctive relief, as Provincial Small Claims does not have the inherent jurisdiction required to make these orders.

Section 3(1) of the Small Claims Act [RSBC 1996] Chapter 430 outlines the specific orders that the Small Claims Court is able to make:

3  (1) The Provincial Court has jurisdiction in a claim for

(a) debt or damages,
(b) recovery of personal property,
(c) specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services, or
(d) relief from opposing claims to personal property

if the amount claimed or the value of the personal property or services is equal to or less than an amount that is prescribed by regulation, excluding interest and costs.

The inability of the Provincial Court to grant an injunction or make a declaratory order was confirmed in Bi et al. v. City of Surrey, 2017 BCPC 386. The Court in Bi et al also confirmed that the Provincial Court does not have the authority to grant damages in lieu of an injunction or a declaratory order. This means that the type of interim orders that the Provincial Court can grant differs greatly from the Supreme Court.

To avoid wasted time and costs, it is important to consider the type of order, and by extension the level of Court that is best for your circumstances.

Wills and Estate Law – Court Considerations in Wills Variation Cases

In the recent case of Peterson v. Welwood, 2018 BCSC 1379 (“Peterson”), a son sought, amongst other things, to vary his father’s will for failing to make provision which was adequate, just, and equitable in the circumstances.

In making its analysis, the Court stated that the following considerations have been accepted as informing the existence and strength of a testator’s moral duty to independent children:

  • the relationship between the testator and claimant, including abandonment, neglect and estrangement by one or the other;
  • the size of the estate;
  • contributions by the claimant;
  • any reasonably held expectations of the claimant;
  • the standard of living of the testator and claimant;
  • gifts and benefits made by the testator outside the will;
  • the testator’s reasons for disinheriting;
  • financial need and other personal circumstances, including disability, of the claimant;
  • misconduct or poor character of the claimant; and
  • competing claimants and other beneficiaries (para 190).

Relevant to the inquiry in Peterson was the fact that the plaintiff’s father had put the plaintiff on title to the father’s residence as a joint tenant, and the plaintiff became the sole owner of the property after his father died. The Plaintiff also received certain Canada Savings Bonds directly from the Deceased.

In balancing the factors noted above, the Court ultimately refused to vary the Deceased’s Will and found as follows:

[246] The plaintiff undoubtedly believes that his father has treated him unfairly. The Deceased’s disappointment and mistrust in his son, whether justified or not, appears to have precipitated the change in his estate planning. However, even with the change, the plaintiff received approximately 51% of the Deceased’s assets as of the date of death. This disposition was one of a range of possible dispositions of his assets. In all the circumstances, I am unable to conclude that the Deceased chose an option that fell outside the range of options that might be considered appropriate by a contemporary judicious parent. The appellate authorities have repeatedly cautioned that if a will-maker arranges his affairs in a manner that falls within the range of options that might be considered appropriate by a contemporary judicious parent, the will-maker’s testamentary autonomy must be respected.

If you have a question about a wills variation issue, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202 and ask to speak to someone in the Wills and Estates Department.

A separation can be difficult for all members of the family; the family pet is no exception. Many people may be surprised when they go to court seeking to find a fair way to share the family dog, cat, or other pet, that it is treated like property, not family. The courts have set out several factors that will determine how pets are treated (Oh v City of Coquitlam, 2018 BCSC 986):

  1. pets will not be treated in a manner such as children;
  2. courts are unlikely to consider interim applications for pet ownership;
  3. Canadian Courts are unlikely to find that joint sharing or some form of constructive trust remedy is appropriate; and
  4. that pets are a variant of personal property.

While pets are personal property, they are treated differently than a car or a piece of furniture. There is a requirement that animals, especially cats and dogs, be treated humanely. A court will not award ownership of a pet to a person if it would result in abuse or neglect. Apart from that, the courts will only consider who has legal ownership, not who has the most affection for the pet or treats it better. Courts will not create visitation or joint custody arrangements for pets.

Legal ownership will usually be determined by who owns the pet or who brought it into the relationship. This usually is done by looking at who is the registered owner on the pet’s certificate or who paid for the pet. A person can also show legal ownership if they prove that the pet was gifted to them.

This cut and dry approach might make people think that all judges are heartless, but there are dog lovers on the bench too. In 2018, Justice Lois Hoegg of the Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal dissented when the majority of the court relied on the above approach for determining who got the family dog (Baker v Hamina, 2018 NLCA 15). She thought that when two people contest the ownership of a pet, the court should consider additional factors, including:

  1. who bore the burden of the care and comfort of the animal;
  2. who paid for the expenses of the animal’s upkeep; and
  3. what happened to the animal after the relationship between the contestants changed.

The best way to ensure that your pet is treated like family and not property is to resolve that issue before it goes to court. If you would like to book an appointment with any of our family law lawyers, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202.

Hiring a contractor to perform work around your house or property can be a long and complicated process. It is worse when the work is not done properly, resulting in delays or requiring repairs to the work completed by the contractor. If a contractor refuses to remedy the defects, a lawsuit might be the best option to ensure that you are compensated appropriately for the breach of contract. If you ultimately decide to sue the contractor, a Court will determine if the contractor acted negligently when performing the work.

The Provincial  Court of British Columbia provides a good summation of the law in the case of Morgan and Gaiga v. Pacific Coast Floor Covering Inc., 2018 BCPC 236. In that case, the Court was considering if flooring had been installed negligently. When determining if the flooring had been installed negligently, the Court opined that a contractor is required to perform the work to a usually ascertained objective standard. A contractor, when completing a job, must ensure that:

  1. The materials are of proper quality
  2. The work is performed in a good and workmanlike manner;
  3. The materials and work, when completed, must be fit for their intended purposes; and
  4. The work must be completed without undue delay.

When determining if work is completed to the standard required by law, a Court will consider a broad category of factors. A Court will consider the industry standards associated with that particular type of construction, any regulatory standards for the work performed, or the manufacturer’s installation instructions for the product. When considering these elements, no one element will be determinative, but a Court will attempt to determine if the contractor performed the work negligently. Ultimately, the Court did find that the flooring was not installed with generallyaccepted practices and standards in the industry.For example, the Court reviewed the manufacturer’s Installation Instructions and the industry standards adopted by the Canadian Wood Flooring Association. Consequently, the Court awarded a judgment to repair the negligent flooring.

If you have concerns regarding work completed in or around your home, please give us a call to discuss the matter. Deciding on the best course of legal action will require a careful analysis of the specific circumstances.

Is the Agreement Procedurally Unfair?

Before a Court will set aside an agreement, it will first consider the circumstances surrounding the agreement and whether the parties entered into the agreement in a fair manner.

The Court will consider several factors, such as whether:

  1. one party unfairly pressured the other into signing the agreement;
  2. one party had substantial power over a more vulnerable party;
  3. one party failed to disclose important information to the other party that would have affected the distribution under the agreement;
  4. there was an error in calculation or other mistake;
  5. one party lied to the other party about something that would have affected the agreement; and
  6. each party obtained legal advice about the agreement from his or her own lawyer.

After considering the above, the Court may stilldecide to not set aside all or part of the agreement if it finds that it would not have made a substantially different order for property division.

Is the Agreement, in Substance, Significantly Unfair?

Under a second step, even if the Court finds that the agreement was obtained in a fair manner, the Court may still set aside the agreement if the Court determines that the agreement is significantly unfair.

In determining whether the agreement was significantly unfair, the Court will consider:

  1. the length of time that has passed since the parties made the agreement;
  2. the parties’ intention in achieving certainty in making the agreement; and
  3. the degree to which the parties relied on the terms of the agreement.

If you need legal advice regarding a property agreement, please contact Heath Law LLP.

Upon the separation of two spouses, whether married or common law, spousal support is a critical issue that needs to be discussed. This is especially important for those who are leaving long-term relationships because the effects of separation can be particularly severe for them. Spouses should be aware of a couple of rules that may determine how long spousal support will paid.

The Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines must be considered by the courts when considering the amount and duration of spousal support. Generally, support will be payable for 0.5 to 1 year for each year of cohabitation or marriage. So if two people were in a 14 year relationship, spousal support would be payable for 7 to 14 years. However, if the relationship lasted for 20 years or longer, the duration of support will be indefinite. Spousal support can also be indefinite under the Rule of 65. This rule calls for indefinite support when the age of the recipient spouse plus the length of the relationship equals or exceeds 65. The Rule of 65 does not apply to relationships that last for less than 5 years. For example, if two people ended a 10 year relationship when they were both 60 years old, support would be indefinite.

Indefinite support does not necessarily mean permanent support. It only means that no time limit can be set at the time of the order or agreement. Indefinite support orders are open to variation or review as circumstances change over time. Changes in circumstances may include a change of income, retirement, re-partnering, or if the recipient spouse has become self-sufficient.

Recipients of indefinite spousal support are under an obligation to make reasonable efforts toward their own self-sufficiency. There is no duty to achieve self-sufficiency, but efforts must be made. If a recipient fails to make reasonable efforts, the courts may impute income and reduce spousal support on a later review or variation.

If you would like to book an appointment with any of our family law lawyers, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202.

Estate planning is a complicated process, and it takes a lot of work to ensure that everyone you care about is provided for. Two mechanisms that can be used are Mirror Wills and Mutual Wills.

Mirror Wills create identical provisions in multiple wills and are usually used by spouses. For example, each will could leave everything to the other spouse with a gift over to their children in case the other spouse passes away before the estate is distributed. This method gives the surviving spouse complete control and ownership over the property, and that spouse may change their will after the other’s death if they wish.

A Mutual Will is similar to a Mirror Will in that the provisions in each will mirror the other. It is different because Mutual Wills cannot be changed except as agreed upon. When Mutual Wills are created, both parties agree not to revoke or change their wills, except as provided by that agreement, including after the other’s death. This type of restriction is most often used with blended families, when one or both spouses have children from previous relationships. In those situations, Mutual Wills can be a good way to ensure that if you predecease your spouse that your children will still be provided for.

Problems arise when it is not absolutely clear whether or not two people intended to create Mutual Wills. If there is doubt, Courts generally do not want to interfere with a survivor’s freedom to change or create a new will. This was exactly what happened in Dolby v DeSantis Estate[1989] B.C.J. No. 297 (BC SC). Mr. Dolby and Mrs. DeSantis created identical wills. The wills gave all property to the other spouse, and Mr. Dolby’s children would receive all of the property if they both passed away. After Mr. Dolby’s death, Mrs. DeSantis changed her will and left all of the property to her side of the family. When Mr. Dolby’s children sued Mrs. DeSantis, the Court found that there was no evidence that Mrs. DeSantis ever intended for the first will to be a Mutual Will, and she was free to change her will at any time before her death. The fact that Mr. Dolby and Mrs. DeSantis signed identical wills at the same time did not prove that the wills were Mutual Wills. In order to prove that wills are Mutual Wills, not Mirror Wills, it must be proven that the parties agreed not to revoke the will or to be bound by its provisions in making any subsequent will.

Creating a will is a significant life event that needs to be attended to with the proper diligence and care. If you would like to create your first will or have any questions regarding your existing will please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202.

Ever since 2015, when the Supreme Court of Canada decided in Carter v Canada (Attorney General) that a prohibition on physician-assisted suicide was unconstitutional, Canada has had to redefine what end of life care means and what rights individuals have at this time. This is an ongoing process that will likely continue for many years.

The Supreme Court declared that it violated an individual’s rights to life, liberty, and security of the person to be denied medical assistance in dying (“MAiD”) if the person consents, and if they had a grievous and irremediable medical condition that causes enduring and intolerable suffering. In response to Carter, the federal government passed a law that allowed an individual to receive MAiD, but only if they met the conditions in Carter and if their natural death had become reasonably foreseeable.

The new law has been the subject of another constitutional challenge by the BC Civil Liberties Association, which was one of the plaintiffs in the Carter decision in 2015. They argue that the current law is overly restrictive, and that it excludes people with multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease that should be allowed to have access to MAiD.

The discussion around MAiD continues in the courts, Parliament, legislatures, and in our homes. If you or a loved one is considering MAiD, be sure to research and understand the legal and personal implications of this important decision.

If you need legal advice on medical assistance in dying, end of life planning, or any other law related inquiry, please contact us.

After a motor vehicle accident it is very important to gather the appropriate information in case of a he said/she said battle over legal responsibility or liability.

Assuming that you do not need emergency medical attention after the motor vehicle accident you should look at and record the other driver’s licence number, the licence plate of the vehicle that hit you as well as their insurance information. It is worth stressing the importance of verifying the other driver’s licence number and not just asking for their name. This will remove the chance of the other driver providing you with a phony name. Take a picture of the other vehicle (and licence plate), the other driver and the other driver’s licence.

Also, take pictures of the scene of the accident, which would include any damages to vehicles as well as the position of the vehicles after the accident. If there are any 3rd party witnesses, their information and identity should be recorded to provide their account of the accident if there is a battle over liability.

After the accident there are also different entities that you should contact. Right after the accident you should contact ICBC. At this initial contact you should provide ICBC with the information that you gathered at the scene of the accident. Also, it may be necessary to call the police after the accident. If it is a hit-and-run accident you must contact the police; by calling the police you create a record of the accident which can be of assistance later on in the ICBC process. Finally, you should contact a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer will act on your behalf, guide you through the legal process and ensure that you are appropriately compensated from the accident.

If you or someone you know has been in a car accident contact Heath Law LLP.