Here are some of the new provisions of the Family Law Act that I think are important to know if you live in BC. The relevant section numbers of the Family Law Act are in brackets:
- Out of court settlement processes are encouraged (Division 1). These include mediation, arbitration, collaborative family law, and parenting coordination (section 1). There are others.
- Lawyers are to encourage out of court settlement processes. (Section 8).
- Spousal support becomes an issue to be addressed by common law couples after two years of a marriage like relationship, or after having a child (Section 3). Entitlement for spousal support is the same as for married couples. (Section 161)
- Common law couples divide their property in the same way as married couples after two years of a marriage like relationship, whether they have a child together or not (Section 3). (Does this make sense? Read my article “What Choice Do I Have? The effect of choice on common law spousal support” in my resources section of my webpage – my answer is in there.
- Certain types of property are now excluded from division – inheritances, pre-marital assets, and others (Section 85). Growth of value on these assets may still be shared.
- Family debt can be allocated between separating spouses. (Section 86)
- Family property and debt are valued based on fair market value, as of the date of trial or the date of the agreement reached between spouses. (Section 87)
- There is a presumption of equal division of family property, regardless of contribution (Section 81).
- An unequal division of property is only permitted if an equal division would be “significantly unfair”). (Section 95)
- The Family Law Act places greater emphasis on the sanctity of a freely negotiated agreement (Section 6). Courts may only set aside agreements when: A party took advantage of the negotiation process by failing to disclose property, debts or other relevant information, or took advantage of a vulnerable spouse
- The best way to make sure your agreement is not set aside remains fully disclosing, having a properly drafted separation agreement, and getting independent legal advice. (Section 5, 93, others)
- Parenting coordinators are authorized to provide binding decisions in parenting disputes (Section 15)
- Family disputes can be submitted to Arbitration. (Section 307)
- The “best interests of the child” test is formalized in the Family Law Act (Section 37). A mandatory review of any family violence is required (Section 38).
- Family violence is defined in the act. It includes exposing children to family violence, directly or indirectly. (Section 1)
- A Court cannot make an order for spousal support that contradicts an agreement for spousal support, unless the agreement is set aside (sections 163 and 164). The factors to set aside an agreement? The agreement is significantly unfair, or the circumstances around the reaching the agreement are unfair. See #10 above.
- Same thing for an agreement for division of property. (Sections 92 to 94).
Let me know if I can help you.