Debbie’s Story


Debbie is a 44-year-old mother of four who left her marriage after 20 extremely difficult years.


After acquiring a brain injury in two motor vehicle accidents, Debbie struggled with a number of physical and cognitive symptoms that contributed to the power imbalance in her marriage. As she was not provided the support she needed to seek treatment for this injury, Debbie felt powerless to leave and was unable to continue running her corporate training business.


Because Debbie could not afford a lawyer and had difficulty accessing legal aid, when she finally left her situation, she ended up self-representing. What she thought would be a simple process to protect her children turned out to be a continuation of her nightmare, as her husband’s lawyer characterized her as mentally ill. Terrified, anxious, and manifesting physical symptoms like shaking because of her brain injury, the judge accepted this characterization and took custody of her children away.


Debbie has since been able to access legal aid and continues to fight to regain custody of her children. She has also restarted her consulting business, now called Speaks Out, where she works with organizations to teach people about safety in both the workplace and at home.


Debbie’s story is similar to the story of so many women who have not received legal aid at a critical moment in their lives. It is often the case that women in difficult situations do not have the financial resources or support they need to leave – and when they try to, they’re going up against someone who can afford to pay a lawyer to discredit them.


We have to improve funding for legal aid, so that women like Debbie can access it when they need it.


Real justice means fair access. We need legal aid.


Legal Aid in BC is provided by the LSS. Financial and issue eligibility requirements for legal aid in BC change and are adjusted by the LSS in response to the funds available to them from time to time. For information on current eligibility requirements visit