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Family Law Act Fact Sheet

On Tuesday, I presented at the eWomen Network Vancouver Island Accelerated Networking Dinner.

The presentation I gave was a summary of changes that are coming with the new Family Law Act.

Carly and I at the eWomenNetwork dinner on August 14, 2012

According to the explanitory notes to the Family Law Act, it will do the following  (bold portion taken from the explanatory note to the Family Law Act – italics portion are Christine’s commentary):

  • Promote family dispute resolution to resolve disputes;
  •  More emphasis placed on mediation, collaborative law, arbitration, parenting coordinators and out of court dispute resolution;
  • Clarify when and how agreements may be set aside;
  •  The court will only be able change the terms of a written agreement if: one of the parties failed to disclose significant property or debts, one person took advantage of the other’s vulnerability, one spouse did not understand the nature and consequences of the agreement, there is a common law reason the contract would be voidable;
  • The test for determining if an agreement is valid changes from “unfair” to “significantly unfair”;
  • Establish a comprehensive scheme to determine a child’s legal parent, including in situations where technology has been used to assist reproduction;
  • Ensure that the best interests of the child are the only consideration when resolving parenting disputes, and add into the consideration of the best interests of the child any history of family violence and, unless inappropriate, the child’s views;
  • There is no presumption of equal parenting time;
  • Emphasize responsibilities to children and promote cooperation by eliminating divisive terms, replacing “custody” and “access” with “guardianship”, “parental responsibilities” and “contact with a child”;
  • Establish a clear framework to determine whether a parent may relocate with a child;
  • Extend rights and duties respecting property division to unmarried persons who qualify as spouses, and modify the property division framework to meet recommendations from the British Columbia Law Institute respecting pension division;
  • Spouses will have access to the property division provisions of the Family Law Act.  A spouse is a person who has lived in a marriage-like relationship for two years or is legally married.
  • Align spousal support more closely with the Divorce Act (Canada) and eliminate parental support;
  • The court may order that spousal support (and child support) may continue after the person who pays support dies.
  • Increase the range of remedies and consequences for non-compliance with agreements and orders;
  • Replace civil restraining orders with orders to protect safety and orders to manage behaviours that are problematic but do not present a risk of family violence;
  • Amend the Commercial Arbitration Act to change the title and add provisions unique to arbitrations respecting family law disputes;

There are many, many, many more details and changes to be aware of –  it is very important to consult with a lawyer for legal advice.   The extended version of my presentation goes into more of these details.  I will be interested to see, after the legislation comes into force, if it does all of things it promises to do!

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