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Divorce Blog

The New Family Law Act in British Columbia

By Karen Stewart

This act will put British Columbia at the forefront of the rest of Canada in terms of up-to-date, progressive family law. The family mediation community in the province applaud this new act for many reasons including placing emphasis on mediation over litigation. The new act gives equal emphasis to agreements and court orders including out-of-court resolutions and encourages people to settle their family law cases without having to go before a judge.

Legal Services SocietyThe Legal Services Society (LSS) says that if the agreement covers property division or the payment of spousal support, it must be signed by both parties and witnessed by at least one other person. It goes on to say, “It’s a good idea to have any family law agreement signed and witnessed.”

BC Family Mediators and Lawyers have been anticipating the final date for execution of the new Family Law Act for almost a year. It was on November 24, 2011, that it was introduced as legislation and it was recently announced by the Minister of Justice that it will come into full effect March 18, 2013.

The Legal Services Society continues to provide running commentary on just how significant the changes will be, including:

Giving Notice Before Moving: Under the new act, 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, unless the guardian has obtained a court order that says he or she does not have to give notice before moving.

Child Support: 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. Under the new act, 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.

For more information from the LSS.