Family Law Act Receives Royal Assent

This article will focus on some of the upcoming changes to family law in British Columbia as a result of the implementation of the Family Law Act.  Subsequent articles will deal with provisions of the new Family Law Act in terms of property division, common-law relationships, and other topics.

The current legislation governing family law issues in British Columbia is the Family Relations Act.  Over the past few years, changes to the legislation have been discussed amongst lawyers, judges and stakeholders in the system, the result of which is the new Family Law Act (Bill 16).  The Family Law Act received royal assent on November 24, 2011.  It will come into force by regulation over the next year or so.  Once in force, it will repeal the existing Family Relations Act and will become the statute to which we turn for assistance in resolving family law disputes through negotiation and through the Courts.

There are some new concepts that are brought forward in the new Family Law Act.  Those include the following:

  1. Resolution of family law disputes out of Court is preferred;
  2. There will be increased use of Family Justice Counselors;
  3. There will be increased use of Parenting Coordinators;
  4. There will be an expanded focus on the definition of “best interests of the child”.  The impact of family violence on the child’s safety, including whether or not the family violence is directed toward the child or another family member, and whether the actions of a person responsible for family violence indicate that the person may be impaired in his or her ability to care for the child and meet the child’s needs.  The Court will be required to consider the nature and seriousness of the family violence, how recently it occurred, how frequently it occurred, and what the impact of that violence was on the child’s physical, psychological and emotional safety;
  5. In terms of a child’s guardianship, the new legislation will provide that while a child’s parents are living together and after the child’s parents separate, each parent of the child is the child’s guardian;
  6. Rather than focusing on the term custody, the new legislation will focus on “parenting arrangements”;
  7. The new legislation defines parental responsibilities;
  8. The Court will be given powers to make a number of Orders if it is satisfied that an applicant has been wrongfully denied parenting time or contact with a child by that child’s guardian.  This will include giving the Court the right to fine the offending parent for denial of parenting time or contact with the child.  The Court will also be given power to fine a parent who repeatedly fails to exercise his or her parenting time with the child;
  9. There will be requirements for guardians to give notice to the other guardians of a proposed relocation of that person or the child.  Specific direction exists in the new legislation for what the Courts may consider if they are asked to make an Order respecting relocation of a guardian and his or her child. 

To discuss these matters, or the consequences of a breakdown of marriage or relationship, contact Pushor Mitchell Lawyers.

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