British Columbia

B.C. family laws face sweeping change

B.C.'s attorney general is introducing a bill that would make sweeping reforms to the province's family law.

Bill that vows to protect children would also extend property rights to common-law couples

B.C.'s attorney general introduced a bill Monday that would create a new Family Law Act to replace the 1978 Family Relations Act, and better serve the interests of children.

Shirley Bond told the B.C. Legislature that the primary goal of the proposed act is to ensure the safety and well-being of children during and after the process of separation or divorce.

The proposed Family Law Act attempts to reduce conflict by steering couples away form courts and towards mediation. ((CBC))

"The best interests of the child must be the only consideration," Bond said.

Bill 16's recommendations follow from a discussion paper and draft legislation issued in July 2010. The white paper suggested, among other things, toning down the language in the law by removing terms such as "custody."

The bill tries to reduce conflict by steering couples away form courts and towards mediation.

The proposed new law, if passed, would also curb family violence by replacing restraining orders issued by civil court with protection orders issued by criminal court.

Primary goals of Bill-16, the Family Law Act:

  • Putting welfare of children first in custody matters
  • Address family violence with criminal law reform
  • Clarify how property is divided when relationships cease

Another reform proposed for the Family Law Act would extend property rights to common-law couples, rights which presently do not formally exist in B.C.

If the bill passes, there will be a 50/50 split of the couple's assets, with the exception of inherited assets and those acquired before the relationship began.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies