The BC Family Law Act Overview
The new Family Law Act was passed on Nov. 23, 2011. The primary goal of the bill is to better protect the safety and interests of children and to clarify parental responsibilities and the division of assets. The bill also addresses issues of family violence, and encourages the use of alternative dispute resolution.
Protecting Children’s Interests
A major goal of the Family Law Act is to make sure that the interests of children are properly protected. Under the Act, decisions that affect a child’s well being now must be considered solely on the basis of what would be in the best interest of that child. The Family Law Act has also expanded the criteria of the “best interests of the child test” to better protect the safety of children. Some of the new criteria include:
- the impact of family violence on a child’s safety, security or well-being
- any civil or criminal proceedings relevant to the child’s safety and well-being
- the child’s history of care
- the child’s views
Family Violence & Protection Orders
Family violence is an issue that the Family Law Act has decided to address head on. One of the major points of difference that separates the new act from the old is the defining of the term “family violence.” By establishing an agreed upon definition of what can be considered “family violence”, the Family Law Act makes it easier for the courts to address this critical issue.
The Family Law Act has also created a new type of order – a protection order – that replaces the former Family Relations Act’s restraining orders. Similar to a restraining order, protection orders are put in place to limit contact and communication between family members in instances where an individual’s personal safety is threatened.
Breaches of protection orders under the Family Law Act and the Child, Family and Community Services Act are a criminal offence.
The Family Law Act was written with the objective of facilitating a parent’s continued involvement in the lives of their children. To reach this goal, the Family Law Act has either created or more adequately embraced a range of remedies and tools to address issues of non-compliance.
Some of the tools that the Family Law Act has embraced include:
- family dispute resolution and counseling
- the reimbursing of expenses – such as travel, child care, and lost wages by a parent that is unable to fulfill their custody obligations
- the payment of a fine by any parent that denies another parent access to their child
Under the BC Family Law Act, there are provisions that indicate that select forms of property will no longer be divided between divorcing parties. Examples of property that might be excluded from the division of assets includes pre-relationship property and property that is inherited.
The Family Law Act has also redefined the term “Family Property” to include all property owned by one or both spouses at the date of separation (unless otherwise excluded). If the property is excluded, then only the increase in the value of the asset over the course of the relationship can be divided.
Whether an asset is used for a family purpose is not relevant in deciding if that asset is family property.
Perhaps the most significant change brought about by the new Family Law Act is the establishment of a much-needed framework to determine a child’s legal parents. This framework is inclusive of modern parenthood and provides guidance in those instances where assisted reproduction has been used.
For more information on the new Family Law Act and how it relates to your legal situation, please contact the family law lawyers at McQuarrie Hunter LLP.
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