The New Family Law Act in British Columbia
In terms of up-to-date, progressive family law, the Family Law Act will move British Columbia ahead of most of Canada. The regional family mediation community applauds this new act for many reasons, as it places emphasis on mediation over litigation. The new act gives equal emphasis to agreements and court orders, including out-of-court resolutions. This encourages people to settle their cases without having to go before a judge.
The Legal Services Society (LSS) says that if the agreement covers property division or spousal support payments, it must be signed by both parties. The signing of the agreement happens in the presence of a witness. It goes on to say, “It’s a good idea to have any family law agreement signed and witnessed.”
Because of the positive family impact, area attorneys and mediators have been anticipating the final date of the new Family Law Act for almost a year. It was on November 24, 2011, that it was introduced as legislation. It was then announced by the Minister of Justice that it will come into full effect March 18, 2013.
Understanding Changes with the Act
The Legal Services Society continues to provide running commentary on just how significant the changes will be, including:
Giving Notice Before Moving
A guardian who wants to relocate (move) with a child must give 60 days’ notice to every other guardian or person who has contact with the child. The exclusion is if the guardian has obtained a court order that says he or she does not have to give notice before moving.
Parents, step-parents and guardians are all responsible for supporting the children, an order or agreement may make the child support payor’s estate continue to pay after the payor dies.
Making Agreements to Stay Out of Court
Under the new act, the court may set aside agreements or replace them with court orders, but cannot change them. The courts can also refer people to out-of-court dispute resolution services such as counselling, mediation, and arbitration, or appoint a parenting coordinator to help parents implement a parenting plan described in a final order or agreement.