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Living Together or Living Apart now available as an eBook

Living Together or Living  ApartOur popular, award-winning booklet (received the 2013 Apex Grand Award) Living Together or Living Apart is now available as an eBook! You can download it to any eBook reader, including Kindle, Kobo, or your smart phone, iPad, or tablet. This means you don’t need an Internet connection to access this publication, and you don’t need to make printouts to share information. Cross-references are linked and terms in bold link to the Glossary, making it easy to navigate to information your client needs. For more information about eBooks, check out Lifehack’s Ten Advantages of E-book Readers.

Living Together or Living Apart explains the basics of family law in BC. It includes information about:

  • being married or in a marriage-like relationship (also called a common-law relationship),
  • what separation and divorce mean,
  • how to work out parenting arrangements, and
  • how to sort out money matters.

It also explains your legal options and where to get help, and includes a chapter for Aboriginal families.


Follow what’s happening with MyLawBC

MyLawBC is our big, new online public legal education and information project, and we want to keep you updated and involved as the website develops. We’ve just launched a new blog so that you can follow along as we move forward, and so that we can hear what you have to say.

MyLawBC is an innovative new website that will help British Columbians solve their legal problems. What makes it different from other legal websites is that it is interactive, and will engage with users. The site is built around one core idea that we call guided pathways.  In these pathways, you will be asked a series of questions that will help diagnose exactly what your legal problem is and determine how you can best address it. Once you’ve reached the end of your pathway, MyLawBC will give you an action plan unique to your problem, which maps out the steps you can take to solve your problem.

Over the next few months, staff members will post their thoughts and experiences, as well as project updates on the new MyLawBC Blog. You can follow the site’s growth as we take it from an idea on paper to a working prototype — and all the way to the official launch next year. To stay up to date on all things MyLawBC, visit the blog or subscribe to updates through your email or through a dedicated RSS reader.

A Guide to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement now available as an eBook

A Guide to the Indian Residential Schools SettlementOur online-only booklet A Guide to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement is now available as an eBook! You can download it to any eBook reader, including Kobo, Kindle, or even your smart phone or iPad or tablet. For advocates, LIOWs, and ACLWs, this means that you no longer need an Internet connection in order to access this publication, and you no longer need to remember to bring printouts to share this information with your clients. Cross-references are linked, making it easy to navigate and get right to the information your client needs. Still not sure about eBooks? Check out Lifehack’s Ten Advantages of E-book Readers.

A Guide to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement provides easy-to-understand information on the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The booklet explains to survivors what their options are under the agreement, including what their options are now that the deadlines to apply to the Common Experience Payment and Independent Assessment Process have passed. It also includes information on the Personal Credits that are available to survivors who received a Common Experience Payment. It has a comprehensive section on where to get legal help and emotional support.

Separation agreement guide now includes property division and pensions!

Dividing propertyWe’ve now added a section on property division and pensions to our newest self-help guide.

In July, we told you about our new separation agreement guide, which allows users to build their own personalized separation agreements. The guide has proven quite popular, shooting to second place for page visits in the first month after its launch.

We’re now planning to use the same model to develop a guide for drafting affidavits, as part of our new Supreme Court Self-help Resources Project. Stay tuned for new developments.

If you have feedback to offer on the new guide, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an email and let us know what you think!

Five new projects from LSS

This year LSS was given an extra $2 million to kick-start some pilot projects to try and improve access and efficiency for criminal and family law matters. This fall, we’ll be using this money to launch five new projects to help people across BC address their legal issues.

1) Expanded Family Duty Counsel in Victoria

Duty counsel are lawyers who can offer legal advice. For family matters, they’re available to help people with issues related to separations and divorces. They’re currently available throughout the province and the service will soon be expanded at the Justice Access Centre in Victoria to focus on legal coaching to help people resolve their issues.

2) Expanded Family LawLINE

The Family LawLINE is a number you can call to get free legal advice over the phone from a lawyer. We’ll be expanding the level of advice available so that people can send in documents for review and schedule follow-up calls.

3) Mediation Referral

We’re working with Mediate BC to expand the availability of early and affordable mediation services. For people who qualify, LSS will refer them to Mediate BC and they’ll receive four hours of mediation. After those four hours, the mediator can provide more help if needed, based on a sliding scale.

4) Parents’ Legal Centre

A Parents’ Legal Centre will be opened in a community still to be determined. This centre will focus on collaboratively resolving child protection issues. Staff will help parents as they work with the Ministry of Children and Family Development or Delegated Aboriginal Agencies. This help may include providing legal advice and information, support before and at hearings, as well as at Collaborative Planning and Decision Making and other collaborative processes.

5) Expanded Criminal Duty Counsel

Starting in 2015, for some uncomplicated cases, criminal duty counsel will work with the same client over a number of visits to help resolve cases earlier. Currently, people seeing duty counsel just see whoever is available. Cases that aren’t being resolved through expanded duty counsel may receive a legal aid referral.

Hot Off the Press — If Your Child Is Taken: Your Rights as a Parent

If-Your-Child-Is-Taken-28-lssWe’ve reprinted this popular brochure that explains about child protection law and what parents or guardians can do if the Director of Child Protection removes their child or is planning to remove their child from the home. It also includes where to get legal help. We made minor revisions to describe how to work out an agreement and about the court process. The previous version (March 2013) is still legally accurate and is also available in French online.

If Your Child Is Taken in English is available in print and online. Order from Crown Publications.

Need a separation agreement? Help has arrived!

Earlier this month, we launched an entirely new kind of animal: a fill-in-the-blanks/choose your own options 7-part separation agreement guide. The feedback that LSS received through community consultation over the years has revealed a need for material to help people draft their own separation agreements.

How to write your own separation agreement is based on a precedent manual produced by the Continuing Legal Education Society of BC (CLEBC). LSS and CLEBC collaborated on an agreement to allow LSS to rely on CLEBC’s Family Law Agreements: Annotated Precedents as source material.

The new guide is unlike any of our earlier guides, and results in a basic personalized separation agreement, which can be filed at the court registry as a first step toward a divorce.

Separation guide 1Users fill in what looks like an online form (section by section), following instructions that are both technical and provide legal information on what words to include. They choose relevant paragraphs by toggling “include/don’t include” buttons on or off, and fill in the necessary dates and names. Some elements (like names) automatically appear throughout the rest of the section after they’re entered once.

Upon completing each section of the guide, the user clicks an “Open text version” button. This strips out all the instructions and unused paragraphs, collects all the selected/entered content, and moves it to a new window.

From that window, users can copy and paste each section into a Word or other word processing document, and tweak or add further details as/if required (for example, sequential numbers for all paragraphs once the agreement is complete). (Numbered paragraphs are required if the agreement is to be filed at the court registry.)

Separation guide 2In the interests of keeping this simple, the guide doesn’t store the entered information anywhere once the user leaves each Web page. This protects the user’s privacy, but also means they must either complete each section at one sitting or store partially completed sections by clicking the “Open text version” button and saving their work to another file that they can add to later.

Our guide is based on CLE’s Family Law Agreements: Annotated Precedents, which is available by subscription to the general public for $250 for those who need to write a more complex agreement.

Initial test results have been positive. Users found it easy to use and understand.

Currently, the guide contains sections on parenting, child and spousal support, and debts. In late August, we’ll be adding a section on property and pensions.

We welcome your feedback on our latest creation! Send us an email and let us know what you think.

Hot off the Press – Aboriginal Child Protection Wallet Card

Aboriginal Child Protection Wallet CardThe Aboriginal Child Protection Wallet Card has been reprinted and is now available for order. This wallet card lets Aboriginal parents know about their right to get legal advice if they’re being investigated for a child protection matter. It provides the Legal Aid phone number, and encourages parents to call as soon as possible to find out if they qualify for a free lawyer.



Recently, a ground-breaking conference on gamification was held in San Francisco that drew hundreds of participants. What, you ask, is gamification?

Gamification is taking ideas from games and using them in other contexts to encourage people to take certain actions. Fitness apps are a good example of this. On the one end of the scale, there are apps like Fitocracy, which awards you points for working out and lets you compete with friends. On the other extreme you have apps like Zombies, Run!, which has you listen to a story as you run; every once in a while, zombies will attack and you have to run as fast as you can. Once the danger has passed, you can return to jogging. (Some of you may recognize that this is actually interval training.)
You may be wondering what this has to do with legal aid. The idea of gamification definitely sounds like it’s a bit out there, but if you think about it, it really is just an application of behavioural psychology. Now that’s something that we’re really interested in. We spend a lot of time trying to explain really long and complicated processes. We know that some people will drop out of any online process, legal or otherwise. There could be a lot of reasons for this – from the stress of a situation to getting distracted by the family pet – regardless of the reason, we need to know if there are ways we can tweak how we present information to encourage people to keep at it and not give up.

San Francisco

How do you motivate people to do things that they know they should do but can’t quite make themselves do? In general, I think most people who come to us start out very motivated; they want a divorce or they need to help a friend find help with their legal problem. But the fact is that most legal issues can’t be solved in one sitting. They take time and, as that time passes, things crop up in their lives that affect how motivated they are.

One of the experts in motivation is BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford and a keynote speaker at the San Francisco conference. To oversimplify his message to one sentence: for someone to do a certain behaviour, they need to be motivated to do it, have the ability to do it, and then have the thought to do it. In our case, we’ve put a lot of work into making sure that people have the ability to use our resources. With what we’ve learned about the theory of motivation, we have a good starting point for making our resources more engaging, which should hopefully help people stick with them to achieve what they set out to.

Emperor_Joshua_A__Norton_ISan Francisco Fact: Joshua Norton, Emperor of the United States of America and Protector of Mexico, was one of San Francisco’s most famous residents. He declared himself Emperor of the United States in 1859 and lived out his life in San Francisco as a local celebrity and even issued his own currency, which was accepted in the city.

He was once arrested by a police officer who wanted him institutionalized. There was a public outcry and the Police Chief ordered Norton released saying, “that he had shed no blood; robbed no one; and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in that line.” After that, he was saluted by any San Francisco police officers who saw him in the street.

–Nate Prosser, Online Outreach Coordinator

Hot off the press – Speaking to the Judge Before You’re Sentenced

Speaking To The JudgeBack in stock! Speaking to the Judge Before You’re Sentenced has been revised and reprinted. There have been some changes to the law regarding fines; previous versions of the brochure should be recycled.

This brochure outlines the possible sentences for someone pleading guilty or found guilty. It explains in plain language what you can say to the judge before the judge decides on a sentence. It also contains information for Aboriginal people on their Gladue rights and how to talk to the judge about their Aboriginal background.