In the courthouses in Vancouver and New Westminster, there are 2 family law duty counsel in each location, available every day that court sits (from about 9am until 4:30pm). Duty counsel are lawyers paid by the Legal Services Society (LSS) for up to three hours of free advice to help with family law issues. All duty counsel wear badges so they can be easily identified.
You have to qualify financially (see www.legalaid.bc.ca/DoIQualifyAdvice). If your income exceeds our financial criteria, you can still receive up to 45 minutes of general help from duty counsel (depending on their availability), and/or a 45 minute appointment with a family advice lawyer (with a referral from a family justice counsellor).
There is one Lead Duty Counsel (full time duty counsel) in each location (Vancouver and New Westminster). There is also a second duty counsel in each location; there is a roster of approximately 10 lawyers for each location who share that duty counsel role (works out to roughly once every 2 weeks for each duty counsel lawyer on the roster).
Family Duty Counsel can do the following for self-represented litigants:
- give only verbal advice about your legal rights, obligations, and court procedures;
- review and help you prepare court documents;
- help you negotiate and settle issues;
- help you prepare or review consent orders or family agreements that can be filed in court;
- attend court with you to ask for an adjournment, an unopposed or consent order, or an emergency restraining order, if appropriate;
- inform you on what to do when you go to court; and
- refer you to other resources
Family Duty Counsel Cannot:
- follow up with written advice;
- go to court for any contested trial or hearing with complicated issues;
- help you with complex property disputes, or give you tax advice;
- help you if you already have a lawyer;
- prepare your court documents;
- help you with any non-family-law legal problems;
- serve or accept court documents for you; or
- become your lawyer while acting as duty counsel.