Change You Can Believe In: Recommendations to Revise BC’s Family Relations Act

British Columbia’s Attorney-General Mike De Jong released his Ministry’s long awaited recommendations for changes to BC’s Family Relations Act. Enacted over 30 years ago, the Family Relations Act has been tweaked from time to time, but the amendments contemplated by the Attorney-General signal a fresh approach to family law issues.

Some of the major changes are:

1. The abandonment of certain words in the legislation that tend to promote conflict. For example, a parent who does not have “custody” of a child but has “access” may feel that his or her parenting role is demeaned by the word “access”.

Common complaints include the notion that these traditional expressions of parenting treat the child as a chattel. The recommendation is “guardianship” be used instead of “custody” and that “parenting time” be substituted for “access”.

2. Currently common law spouses are not entitled to apply for a division of family property upon the breakdown of their relationship. A complicated and ponderous legal concept may be invoked, but it is more expensive and provides nominal compensation. (the doctrine of unjust enrichment)

Amendments to the law would open the door for common law spouses to enjoy the same property law benefits as legally married spouses. The recommendation states that where common law spouses live in a marriage-like relationship for two years or have a child, they should be treated like married spouses. This recommendation would, of course, also apply to same-sex couples.

3. Issues arising from reproductive technology are addressed in the recommendations. For example, the amended law will govern situations where a child may have three parents i.e. a birth mother, the birth mother’s partner and a sperm donor. As well, laws with respect to surrogate mothers will also be covered in the proposed changes to the law.

4. Spousal support will not terminate upon the death of a payor spouse, but may continue and be paid from the estate of the deceased spouse.

5. Overall, the focus in family law will move from a court-centered approach to out-of court resolutions. Mediation and collaborative law will continue to be highlighted. Family law arbitration will be introduced.

The White paper that contains the recommendations can be viewed at the Attorney-General’s website. The government invites written input from members of the public with a view to commence drafting the new law in 2011.

Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang

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3 thoughts on “Change You Can Believe In: Recommendations to Revise BC’s Family Relations Act

  1. Hi Georgialee,
    I was fortunate enough to speak with you briefly on CBC radio when this took place a year ago. I believe we spoke quickly about looking forward to the FRA changes, and I recall you mentioning that it is so unfortunate when defending a custody case that opposing counsel can be so unyielding, uncooperative and deceptive…can you say history of reprimand…?

    That’s ok though, the day is coming in a month, before the BCLS. If all goes well, and I mean badly, I may have to declare it a holiday in the future!!! I could call it: Cleansing Counsel For Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth Day, maybe Elizabeth Day for short, and for our child. : P

    Something tells me there would be several others who would celebrate with me…

    I have been in an uncompromising separation that lasted 5 days of trial time self-represented against a real pitbull lawyer (well, rottweiler actually) and I will finally get the entire costs judgment soon. (Barf)

    Yet I am hoping my ‘each bear their own costs’ submission supported by many relevant authorities along the line that in custody cases the only ‘winner’ is the child, and that there should not be an economic consequence or disadvantage to defending what a parent wants; to be a (collective/collaborative) part of the child’s best interests.

    Not to mention the financial circumstances of the parties as a result of vacating/foregoing the home and its enrichment…apparently I even gave up the vacuum cleaner and wireless router…I gots nothin’…

    Funny thing, we’d had a settlement conference too, it just seemed to get thrown out two days later, and just five days before trial. Joy! At least J. Williamson was firm, sharp and kind, I’ll see him any day.

    Oh well, our daughter is thriving, I’ll get more access some day soon…

    I really enjoy your blog and it is a huge pleasure to read your informed and refined perspective(s). Keep up the great thoughts and posts!

    PS – What do you get when you cross a discipline committee at their lunch break?
    Findings of fracture from a Panel of Bowls.

    ba-dum tsshh

  2. Andrew Love your attitude! You should start your own blog. Thanks for the supportive comments. You can also catch my articles onThe Huffington Post and Postmedia. Just google “georgialee lang” on those sites. Stay well! Georgialee

  3. Hi Georgialee,
    I am so glad to get your nod of approval, especially that you recognize or condone my (inherent) attitude. : )

    To be honest, today after reading yet another case (that I’d read before and found quite peculiar) I became reminded about the ol’ switcheroo factor between spousal-counsel, ie-a couple where one was advised re:conflict by Benchers to withdraw so that the paper “falling through the cracks” could be salvaged by LB’s mop-up job.

    Seems to me it was TDB & LB before MacKenzie which appears sooo fishy; what is it called, the Guam switcheroo? Seems like the Justice did not entirely buy the defendant’s overall approach on that one.

    But wow, unless I am wrong, this is a prime example of an unnecessarily frustrating/difficult case, and I ask: Is that an example of difficult and relentless counsel who also have big “cracks” in their foundation? Are these prolonging cover-ups a common tactic or just a lack of ethical strategy? (Findings of fracture from…)

    PS-
    Also, around the same time last year, I believe I saw you speak on a CBC tv segment about the FRA upgrade. Coincidentally, I recall it was Justice Williamson who appeared with you in support of reform and normalization to the FRA; he also attempted to fulfill our Settlement Conference, unfortunately its outcome ‘fell through the cracks’. Ta-dum tsshhh

    PS (B)-
    I should launch a blog within my existing website, http://www.boarderama.com
    even though it is a sports domain–
    I could diversify with a Family Law-Public/Parenting structured part of my site to share sports experiences and media and opinions. Good ol’ single soccer/hockey parents?
    (When I get THAT done, I’ll post a link, but it may be awhile…before the FRA? Hmmm.)

    Thanks for posting/reading,
    A.B.K.

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