Serious family problems

You can get a lawyer to represent you in your family law case in the following circumstances:

  • In serious family situations, for example: 
    • when you need an immediate court order to ensure your or your children’s safety and security;
    • to resolve a serious denial of parenting time or contact with your children;
    • when the other parent threatens to remove your children permanently from the province; or
    • when you have guardianship or parenting time with your children and the other parent has contact with or parenting time, but they have unlawfully held your children and not allowed you to carry out your parenting time.

After federal Divorce Act terms changed on March 1, 2021, contact and parenting time replace access; parenting time and decision-making responsibility replace custody. These Divorce Act changes don’t change older agreements or orders that talk about custody and access. See Parenting apart on the Family Law in BC website for more information.

  • In other situations, depending on available funding, your circumstances, and based on a merit test, including: 
    • to resolve serious legal issues in high conflict cases;
    • when you’ve experienced court-related harassment (your ex-partner is using the legal system to harass you);
    • when you’re unable to represent yourself due to emotional abuse, psychological trauma, or mental illness; or
    • when all other efforts to resolve the case have been exhausted and resolving the case will make a significant difference to you or your children.
  • In some situations, where services are part of a pilot project and provided on a limited basis for part of your case, to help you prepare for mediation, negotiate an agreement, or prepare to represent yourself in court, including: 
    • when you have a child support or spousal support claim;
    • when you need help to make a parenting arrangement or decide contact for your children; or
    • when you need help with the preservation and/​or division of family property.

The items above are not a complete list of all situations that may be covered. Coverage decisions are made on a discretionary (case-by-case) basis. Some representation services are available within trial periods only and may be dependent on funding.
Legal Aid BC has limited representation services for family law issues to help people who wouldn’t normally qualify for a legal aid lawyer. Lawyers give clients the help they need to prepare for mediation, negotiate a settlement, or represent themselves in court. These contracts don’t include divorce.
Call Legal Aid BC to find out if you qualify (see below).

For more information or to apply for legal aid, call the Legal Aid BC Call Centre:


604-408-2172 (Greater Vancouver)
1-866-577-2525 (elsewhere in BC)

(Pacific Time)

Mon, Tue, Thu, and Fri — 9 am to 4 pm
Wed — 9 am to 2:30 pm

If you’re refused legal representation, you may reapply at a later date if:

  • your situation changes, or
  • you have further information to include with your application.

If you’ve qualified for a legal aid lawyer but you’re not sure what your lawyer is authorized to do for you, see What Can I Expect If My Lawyer Is Given a Family Standard Contract?