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

Just Posted

Future space homes could be made of mushrooms

NASA explores use of fungi to build structures in space

All Carlton Cards stores closing in the coming weeks

Schurman Retail Group stores across North America will close, including 79 in Canada

Meet Arthur Heart, Oak Bay Avenue’s resident stickman

Contest winner dubs stickman Art Heart

Sidney cadet takes home gold at South Island Zone biathlon

‘Rising star’ sets her sights on provincials

VIDEO: Trudeau insists Iran respect families’ wishes when it comes to burials

All 176 people on board the Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 were killed

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

B.C.-based Coulson Aviation C-130 crashes in Australia

Three people are confirmed dead in the crash in New South Wales

B.C. RCMP spent roughly $750K on massive manhunt for Port Alberni men

Manitoba RCMP helped with 17-day search through the province’s northern terrain

Island Bakery in Cobble Hill to close

Cobble Hill store in business since 1982

Man killed by police in Lytton called 911, asking to be shot: RCMP

Howard Schantz, also known as Barry Schantz was killed following a standoff at his Lytton home

Canadian public health agencies ramping up preparations in response to new virus

Health officials have said there are no confirmed cases of the emerging coronavirus in Canada

‘Naughty boy’: Monty Python star Terry Jones dies at 77

The comedian has been suffering from a rare form of dementia

Most Read