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.

Just Posted

A pickleball debacle unfolds in Lake Country

Pickleball players and frustrated residents discuss the sport court

Kelowna baby snatcher pleads guilty

Harold Giffen Clarkson Nyren is sentenced to two years probation

Big Wreck announces two Okanagan shows

The American-Canadian band will be playing in Vernon and Kelowna on Oct. 29 and Nov. 3

Kelowna fastpitch player en route to national championships

15 year-old Ryley Binne joins her White Rock team every weekend for tournaments

Kelowna paddling team raises breast cancer awareness for 20 years

“Bust ‘N Loose” cancer survivors take on the waters worldwide for breast cancer research

VIDEO: Missing teens named as suspects in three northern B.C. killings

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky are wanted in the deaths of Lucas Fowler, Chynna Deese, unknown man

BC Cancer Agency refuses to release audit’s critical findings, but discloses ‘positive’ findings

Information and Privacy Commissioner asked to review redactions of cancer agency’s triage audit

B.C. teens wanted in double homicide, suspicious death spotted in Manitoba

Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were thought to have been seen in the Gillam area

Vehicle collides into Okanagan home and drives away

Fencing, landscaping suffer significant damage and minor injury to house on Vernon’s Okanagan Avenue

Countdown starts to 2020 BC Summer Games

Two flags unveiled at Maple Ridge city hall.

Serious injuries sustained in Highway 1 collisions west of Salmon Arm

Air ambulance needed at two accident scenes that closed highway Monday evening

Memorial bench painted by Vancouver woman to stay in park for now

Park board to look at options for artistic enhancements on commemorative benches

VIDEO: Man found dead near B.C. teens’ truck could be linked to a double homicide

RCMP said they are looking for Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, of Port Alberni

Weather Network’s anti-meat video ‘doesn’t reflect true story’: cattle ranchers

At issue is the video’s suggestion that cutting back on meat consumption could help save the planet

Most Read