New Family Law Act: A Primer

What you need to know about drastic changes to British Columbia’s Family Law: A Family Law Act Primer

We have operated under the Family Relations Act since 1979.  As you may know, that statute has been totally rewritten as the Family Law Act which became law on March 18, 2013.

Virtually every aspect of the law has changed.  Some of the major changes are the following:

Resolution of Family Law Disputes – Resolution out of Court Preferred

  • The Family Law Act emphasizes settling disputes out of court such as mediation and lawyer-assisted negotiations.

Care of and Time with Children

  • The concepts regarding children are changed.  “Custody” and “Access” are removed.  Rather, parents are simply “guardians” under the Family Law Act.  They have “parental responsibilities” and “parenting time” with respect to a child. Joint guardianship is the presumed norm.

Property Division

  • Under the Family Law Act all property that a party brings into a relationship is excluded from joint property.  Excluded property is a totally new concept in our family law.  The Family Law Act also introduces sharing of “family debt”.
  • Common-law couples are also now presumed to share property accumulated during the relationship.

Protection from Family Violence

  • A new section in the Family Law Act prohibits harassment and streamlines enforcement of court orders.  Breach of a protection order will be a criminal offence.  Protection orders will generally be valid for one year at which point they expire unless otherwise stated.