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

UPDATED: Two seeking Liberal nod in Ridge, Mission

No dates yet for candidate selection process

Snow and ice easier this time, on Maple Ridge roads

Pothole situation could have been worse, said roads superintendent

City of Pitt Meadows quell concerns about community garden being developed over

Latest Official Community Plan has mixed income housing being built adjacent to garden

Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows await Lyft, Uber

Licensing announcement expected next week

1.6-magnitude earthquake rouses residents from their sleep near Agassiz

The quake was detected 3 km east-northeast of Agassiz

VIDEO: Mass coronavirus quarantines seen in China won’t happen in Canada, authorities say

‘If a case comes here, and it is probably … it will still be business as normal’

Province’s oldest practising lawyer shares advice at her 100th birthday party

Firefighters bring Constance Isherwood a cake with 100 birthday candles

Vernon woman suing McDonald’s for spilled coffee

Woman seeking nearly $10K, says employee failed to put lid on properly

5 things you need to know to start using ridesharing in Metro Vancouver

From how to get started to where drivers can take you, heres all you need to know

Diners’ health tax not catching on in B.C., restaurant group says

Small businesses look for options to cover employer health tax

B.C. comic wins judgment after club owner slaps cellphone out of his hands

Incident happened last summer when Garrett Clark was performing in Abbotsford

Mayors call for ‘calmness’ as highway rockslide cuts Tofino, Ucluelet off from supplies

Ministry of transportation expects to open road for “essential travel only” from noon-8 p.m. Friday.

Owner surrenders dog suffering from days-old gunshot wound to B.C. SPCA

The dog was also found to be emaciated and suffering from a flea infestation

Most Read