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.

Just Posted

One woman arrested following early morning break-in at Colwood home

West Shore RCMP arrested a 23-year-old woman who was transported to hospital

Lagoon Road reduced to single lane traffic due to sewer line work

Crews will be working from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. for the remainder of the week

Judge’s decision set for January in dangerous driving trial for crash that left Saanich girl unresponsive

Tenessa Nikirk is charged with one count of dangerous driving after Leila Bui was struck in 2017

Preliminary inquiry ahead for man who fled Canada prior to double attempted murder trial

VicPD returned fugitive Sebastien Normandin, 49, to Canada earlier this year

Anti-money laundering agency warns casinos to watch gamers playing with bank drafts

Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, known as Fintrac, issues operational alert

‘Jurassic World 3’ will film in Metro Vancouver under working title ‘Arcadia’

Filming is set to take place between Feb. 24 and March 6, 2020

Strata rental bans escape B.C. speculation tax through 2021, Carole James says

Vacant home tax won’t apply to cabins accessible only by water

WFP the Grinch who stole Christmas

It makes me really sad that you don’t understand the labour relations side of the business.

China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians detained for one year

The two Canadians’ detention is largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei exec

B.C. seaplane company set to test the first commercial electronic plane

The plane is powered by a 750 horsepower electric motor

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Most Read