Family Business Breakdown

Family businesses fuel economic abuse in legal battles


British Columbia Law Institute’s project on economic abuse and family law litigation is examining how family businesses can become a vehicle for family violence.

Small businesses make up 98% of businesses in British Columbia.[i] Many of these are family run. When there is a family breakdown, the business can become central to the litigation. Family businesses constitute a family asset. Often, they are also the source of income for one or both spouses.

Statistics Canada reported in 2019 that roughly 84% of individuals experiencing spousal violence also experienced emotional or financial abuse.[ii] Perpetrators can use the family business to inflict economic abuse, operating within legal contexts (e.g. business or tax law) that are not attuned to family violence.

[i] “FACTSHEET: B.C. Small Business facts and figures” (April 4, 2013), online: BC Gov News

[ii] Shana Conroy, “Spousal violence in Canada, 2019” (October 6, 2021), online: Statistics Canada

What issues are being considered?

This project is still in the early stages. However, some potential issues include:

  • Defining and understanding economic abuse;
  • Understanding current issues in BC (e.g. challenges in valuing a business for division purposes, income of the parties, disposition and/or hiding of assets, incurring liabilities through the business.)

This work will result in a study paper and practical resources. These documents will:

  • Consider family and non-family law legislation that may impact economic abuse in family law litigation;
  • Investigate other jurisdiction’s approach to this issue;
  • Share the lived experience and expertise of key informants;
  • Highlight best practices and red flags for professionals working in these areas.

Stage of the Project

We are currently engaging in research and consultation to establish the project and its scope. We will engage subject matter experts as key informants.

Learn more / Get involved

Watch this space for upcoming opportunities to get involved.


This project is made possible by funding from the Ministry of Attorney General for British Columbia.

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