By Chyanne Sharma, Articled Student, Vancouver
Family Justice Counsellors are trained professionals and accredited mediators who help families resolve various issues related to their family law matter. There is no charge for the use of Family Justice Counsellors, and they work in Family Justice Centres and Justice Access Centres throughout British Columbia.
When Should You See a Family Justice Counsellor?
Family Justice Counsellors offer a range of services for individuals who need assistance with resolving a family law matter, some of which includes the following:
- Mediation, including conducting children in mediation interviews
- Provide information about the court process and refer to other community services
- Develop written agreements and consent orders
- Provide emotional support and short-term counselling
- Provide assessments about a family law issue when ordered by the Courts
- Provide services for family dispute resolution for the following:
- Parenting Arrangements
- Contact with a Child; and
- Child and Spousal Support
In circumstances where there are concerns about the care of a child under Part 4 of the Family Law Act, the court may appoint a Family Justice Counsellor to assess and prepare a report based on the needs of a child. This is called a view of the child report or a section 211 report.
If your matter is in Provincial Court and there are issues around parenting, there may be instances where you must comply with Provincial Court Family Rule 5, which requires couples who have separated to meet with a Family Justice Counsellor before you are granted a court date. If there are children involved, you may also be required to complete the Parenting After Separation Course prior to meeting with the Family Justice Counsellor.
However, Family Justice Counsellors are not lawyers and cannot provide individuals with any legal advice. This means they cannot assist with divorces or issues related to property or debt division, but they can refer individuals to legal services.
How Can I Prepare for my Meeting with a Family Justice Counsellor?
You can call your nearest Family Justice Centre or Justice Access Centre to set up an appointment with a Family Justice Counsellor. Once you have a meeting scheduled, consider your important issues and create a checklist or outline that prioritizes your main concerns. If you are seeking assistance with a parenting agreement, it may be helpful to draft a plan. If you would like help with child or spousal support, look at the relevant guidelines, bring with you your T1 General tax returns and Notice of Assessments for the past 3 years and any other relevant tax documents to show proof of your income. It’s also very important that you provide them with any court orders or agreements that exist in your family law file.
Meetings with Family Justice Counsellors are also confidential, and information provided is not disclosed to anyone – not even to the courts. However, if there is an allegation of child abuse or an immediate risk of harm to a person or property, then a Family Justice Counsellor must disclose this to a social worker or to the local police.
To find out more information on how you can proceed with scheduling a meeting with a family justice counsellor, contact your nearest family justice centre!
At Coach My Case, we have a team of experienced legal coaches and paralegal navigators who can help guide and prepare self-represented litigants in their family law matter. We help clients across BC and Alberta for less than what you would normally pay a lawyer. Call us today for your free consultation for more tips on representing yourself.