New legislation puts kids first – B.C. is leading the way with new rules for families and children


It’s sometimes difficult to believe – even for us working as lawyers in family law – but we’ve been working with incredibly outdated laws that are now around 34 years old.

A lot has changed in family composition since then. The 1978 Family Relations Act, will be replaced by the all new “progressive” Family Law Act next year.

The new act will bring family law into the 21st century and is anticipated to respond to the real issues B.C. families are dealing with today.

It has been welcomed by practitioners in all areas of family law as “visionary.”

It took five years of extensive research and consultation with 500 organizations and members of the public to finalize the white paper, which came before the legislature in 2010.

The new act is expected to be implemented sometime in 2013.

This lead time will allow family-law practitioners and the public an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the new act.

There are six significant changes you need to know about. In broad terms, here’s how we’re describing these changes to our clients:

1. It puts children first by expressly stating that the best interests of the child must be the only consideration in making decisions involving the child.

2. It allows family matters to be resolved outside of the courtroom, where appropriate, through agreements, mediation, parenting co-ordination, and arbitration.

3. The new act creates new tools to address family violence – a new protection order will help the courts deal with family violence and states that breaching a protection order will be a criminal offence.

4. Clear consequences and remedies will be in place for parents who deny access to the child’s other parent. Some of these will include family-dispute resolution or counselling and reimbursing expenses such as travel, child care, or lost wages for the denied parent.

5. New property division rules will allow certain types of property, such as pre-relationship property and inheritances, to be excluded from the 50-50 division of property upon separation. These rules are also extended to common-law spouses. Spouses may opt out of the new rules and make different arrangements by agreement, if they choose.

6. B.C. will be the first province in Canada to add relocation provisions to its law to assist parents and the courts in resolving issues when a parent wishes to move with their child.

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