New Family Law Act in B.C. – An Updated Law for a Modern Society
On March 18, 2013, B.C. passed its new Family Law Act, which replaced the former Family Relations Act and made some sweeping changes to the law in that province, bringing it more in line with the governing legislation in Ontario, but adding some new elements as well.
Among the more important changes:
• In certain contexts – including spousal support entitlement – the term “spouse” has been expanded to include people who have lived together for less than two years but have had a child together (this is now in-line with the Ontario definition).
• The new Act now applies to both married and certain unmarried couples in connection with particular family law topics including division of property or debt.
• Unlike Ontario (where analogous provisions do not exist), the B.C. legislation specifically addresses situations where a parent wants to relocate with a child in a way that will interfere with another person’s ability to maintain his or her relationship with that child. Under the new Act, the parent must now give 60 days’ notice of an intended move in certain circumstances.
• There are new provisions to promote co-operation and dispute resolution between spouses.
The new Act also adds clarity and precision to certain terms: for example the concept of “excluded property” has been expanded to incorporate certain specific items. Likewise, the term “best interests of the child”, which is a test used in connection with determining matters such as which parent should have custody, now specifically incorporates elements such as the child’s emotional health and well-being, and consideration of his or views if appropriate.
Finally, certain language used in B.C. family legislation have been clarified and updated, and reference to the terms “custody” and ”access” are no longer used (however, they are still used in the federal Divorce Act). Instead, they have been replaced by the more inclusive terms “guardianship”, “parenting arrangements”, “parental responsibilities”, “parenting time” and “contact”. This reflects the goal of modernizing the legislation to make it more reflective of the many different living arrangements and family relationships that exist in our Canadian society.