Family law updated for modern times

The B.C. government has introduced changes to family law, to reflect modern trends from test-tube babies to common-law relationships.

Tracy Porteous

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has introduced sweeping changes to family law, to reflect modern trends from test-tube babies to the rising number of common-law relationships.

B.C. now has three times the number of couples moving in together as are getting married, and those common-law relationships are more likely to break up. The legislation treats those similar to a marriage, in caring for children and division of assets.

The new Family Law Act is designed to encourage out-of-court settlements in family breakups, which account for about one fourth of all cases in B.C.  courts. It does away with the terms “custody” and “access” and emphasizes parental responsibility and guardianship instead, with new penalties for parents who refuse to provide parenting time or fail to spend time with children as agreed or ordered by a judge.

The act also creates a new protection order for cases involving family violence, with any breach of the order treated as a criminal offence.

Tracy Porteous, executive director of the Ending Violence Association of B.C., said civil protection orders under the Family Relations Act are not taken seriously by police or coordinated with criminal investigations. Domestic violence cases are the second largest category of criminal charges in B.C. behind impaired driving.

“Hopefully, under this legislation, [judges] are not going to arrange to have someone who’s threatening to kill the mother to have custody of the child,” Porteous said.

Eugene Raponi, a family lawyer and mediator in Victoria, said common-law spouses currently have a difficult process to divide assets if they split up. The new legislation exempts inherited assets from settlements, and whether the couple is married or not, it calls for even division of assets accumulated while they are together.

It also protects voluntary agreements from being overturned by a judge, and provides for mediation and arbitration to reach agreements.

“I like to say that if it costs as much to get divorced as it did to get married, you’re doing well, and I think a mediation can accomplish that goal,” Raponi said.

The new law clarifies legal status for children where sperm or egg donors are used. An “intent to parent” definition ensures that donors do not have legal standing as parents.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses claim against Island Corridor Foundation

Snaw-Naw-As (Nanoose) First Nation was seeking return of reserve land as railway sits unused

What’s in a name? Ladysmith’s historical streets re-examined

Several streets in downtown Ladysmith are named after generals that served in the Boer War

QUIZ: Put your knowledge of Canada to the test

How much do you know about our country?

Retired Ladysmith master mariner publishes memoir of a life at sea

John Anderson’s book: Of Times and Tides is a vivid memoir of decades in the shipping industry

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

‘Queue jumpers’ not welcome in B.C. as COVID-19 U.S. cases rise: Horgan

Premier Horgan said he’s heard concerns that Americans have stopped at Vancouver hotels instead of heading to their destination

US officer resigns after photos, connected to death of black man in 2019, surface

Elijah McClain died, last summer, after police placed him in a chokehold

Black worker files discrimination complaint against Facebook

Oscar Veneszee, Jr. has worked as an operations program manager at Facebook since 2017

Nestle Canada selling bottled water business to local family-owned company

The Pure Life bottled water business is being sold to Ice River Springs

Major B.C. salmon farm tests new containment system to curb sea lice infestations

System “essentially eliminates” contact between wild and farmed fish stocks, says Cermaq

Most Read