March 6, 2013

New Family Law Act to replace BC Family Relations Act as of March 18, 2013.

The Government of the Province of British Columbia has proclaimed the Family Law Act to come into effect on the 18th of March, 2013. This statute replaces the existing Family Relations Act and will substantially change the conduct of litigation in family law matters.

The changes that will take effect are in both details and philosophy.

The overall philosophy is to promote settlement and to avoid litigation.

There are in excess of 250 sections in the new statute in addition to which there are numerous regulations and various amendments to other statutes that are affected by the changes in both wording and philosophy in the new Act. In addition to all of this, the Supreme Court Family Rules and the Provincial Court Rules relating to family matters will both be amended to take into account the changes in the new Family Law Act.

It is the experience of the legal profession that when a new statute with extensive changes is introduced and replaces an existing statute, there is a lengthy period during which there is considerable uncertainty as to the manner in which the Court and all the related resources, including the Court Registry and professionals involved in the Court process, will adjust to the new philosophy and the new specific provisions. Previous experience would indicate that this will not be just a matter of months to determine the precise effects of the changes but may even take a year or two, particularly with respect to the implementation of statutory requirements by the Courts where any dispute over interpretation of the individual and specific provisions will end up for determination.

It is essential that anyone experiencing difficulties relating to their family affairs including the parenting of children following separation and divorce, the provision of child and spousal support, and the division of assets and other financial matters obtain and rely upon the services of experienced professionals in advising them of the appropriate remedies that should be pursued. This requires consultation with professionals who have detailed knowledge of the new statute and accompanying rules, and also experience in family litigation. An emphasis on the practice in the family law area is preferable and the assistance of competent and experienced lawyers can be a substantial determining factor in the proper resolution of family matters and the consequent saving of unnecessary cost.

It is necessary to emphasize that not only does the new Family Law Act deal with matters that would otherwise fall under the Family Relations Act and determine financial and parenting matters in the case of separation in a marriage relationship but also substantially affects and changes the law as it relates to the resolution of disputes in common-law relationships that have broken down and where matters relating to children of that relationship and step-children, and also matters of support and resolution of financial disputes are concerned.

We urge you to carefully consider and assess the course of action that you wish to take in attempting resolution of your disputed family matters and in particular would be pleased to offer the services of experienced family lawyers in providing an initial consultation to assist you with advice on the appropriate steps to take.