November 20, 2011 by Susanna Jani
Today’s important posting comes from Kari Boyle, Executive Director of Mediate BC Society:
November 14, 2011: The BC Government introduced a Bill today that proposes a major overhaul of family law in the province. The Family Law Act makes significant changes including:
- Provides a comprehensive scheme to determine a child’s legal parents, including situations where reproductive technology has been used
- Makes children’s best interests the only consideration in parenting disputes
- Changes key language (“guardianship” rather than “custody”; “parenting time” instead of “access”)
- Adds new provisions on relocation
- Extends the property division regime to common law spouses
- Clarifies the division of pensions
- Replaces restraining orders with protection orders enforceable under the Criminal Code
- Introduces family law arbitration and
In addition, and of particular interest to family mediators:
• The Family Law Act as a whole promotes co-operation to the extent possible, including by:
◦ Structuring the law so that court is not the implied starting point
◦ Promoting a broader range of non-court dispute resolution options including:
▪ Parenting coordination
▪ Assistance from family justice counsellors
- The Act encourages agreements (including those resulting from mediation) and clarifies when and how an agreement may be set aside
- The Court may make a “conduct order” to manage behavior and to facilitate resolution through referrals to family dispute resolution
• Family dispute resolution professionals (lawyers, mediators, parenting coordinators and family justice counsellors) must screen for family violence and discuss with the party the advisability of using various types of family dispute resolution to resolve the matter
• Lawyers must certify that information about family dispute resolution options has been provided prior to filing court documents
• A court must ensure that a proceeding is conducted in a way that minimizes delay and formality, reduces conflict, promotes cooperation and protects those involved from family violence
• Section 245 states that the Lieutenant Governor in Council may make regulations to:
◦ Prescribe other dispute resolution processes
◦ Prescribe the training and other qualifications required for family dispute resolution professionals
◦ Mandate family dispute resolution or procedures
Mediate BC supports the proposed Family Law Act as a major step towards the goal of timely, affordable and effective resolution of family disputes.
The First Reading draft of the Family Law Act (Bill 16 – 2011) can be found at http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th4th/1st_read/gov16-1.htm.
As well, you may wish to see the Ministry’s web page on the family law legislation http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/legislation/family-law/index.htm.
The new Act is not expected to take effect for at least one year after it is passed into law. Mediate BC will offer professional development opportunities for mediators about the new Act.