What's new in family law
- July 16, 2014: New Supreme Court family law pilot project
- May 26, 2014: Amendments to the Family Law Act
- March 18, 2013: New Family Law Act in effect today!
- November 29, 2012: Order in Council No. 837, dated November 23, 2012 and effective March 18, 2013, implements the Family Law Act Regulation and the Family Law Pension Regulation required by the new Family Law Act
- July 3, 2012: Amendments to Supreme and Provincial Court Family Rules and forms, effective July 1, 2012
- May 8, 2012: Notice to Mediate (Family) Pilot Project expands across BC
- April 4, 2012: Amendments to Supreme Court Family Rules and forms, effective April 25, 2012
- November 28, 2011: Federal Child Support Guidelines updated effective December 31, 2011
- November 24, 2011: New Family Law Act receives Royal Assent and is now law
- November 14, 2011: New Family Law Act introduced in the legislature
- July 13, 2011: Order in Council No. 191, dated May 26, 2011 and effective July 1, 2011, revises the Supreme Court Family Rules
- May 17, 2010: Canada Revenue Agency to change how child benefits are paid to parents with shared custody
- December 10, 2010: New LSS telephone advice service (Family LawLINE)
- December 10, 2010: New Supreme Court Practice Direction and Administrative Notice mean minor changes to court procedures
- October 1, 2010: Parenting After Separation program to expand to Campbell River, Courtenay, Penticton, and Vernon
- June 3, 2010: More information about the new Supreme Court Family Rules going into effect July 1, 2010
- March 16, 2010: New/relocated legal aid services
- February 3, 2010: Vancouver family duty counsel to move temporarily during Olympics
- December 17, 2009: Improvements to family law legal aid services
- September 10, 2009: Appeals to the Court of Appeal regarding the interjurisdictional abduction of children
- July 7, 2009: New Supreme Court Rules (family) to go into effect July 1, 2010
- March 16, 2009: Changes to family law legal aid services
- January 20, 2009: Notice to Mediate (Family) Pilot Project expanded to Vancouver and New Westminster
- April 1, 2008: Notice to Mediate (Family) Pilot Project expanded to Victoria and Duncan
- March 2008: Draft revised Supreme Court Rules (family) now available online for review and feedback
- November 1, 2007: New mediation pilot project for people with family law cases in Nanaimo Supreme Court
- August 2007: Review of the Family Relations Act underway
- November 1, 2006: Legal Services Society to give more help to families
- August 2006: Supreme Court forms moved to a different website
- August 2006: New Court of Appeal guidebooks
- July 31, 2006: Child support payors must declare increased income
- July 1, 2006: Amendments to BC Supreme Court Rule 60(E) — Judicial Case Conferences
- June 1, 2006: Child Support Recalculation Service pilot project in Kelowna Provincial Court
The Supreme Court has announced a two-year pilot project to help self-represented litigants in family cases. Beginning on September 2, 2014, a roster of several judges in both Vancouver and New Westminster will be assigned on a rotating basis to hear family matters, including trials, chambers, and conferences.
A family law lawyer will be hired to serve as a resource for the Court, and to support the development of jurisprudence under the Family Law Act and various initiatives for improving access to justice.
For more information see the Court of BC website.
The Justice Statutes Amendment Act came into effect May 26, 2014. Among other changes, it amends the Family Law Act (FLA) (March 2013) to clarify sections related to the division of property at the end of a spousal relationship, including those dealing with trusts and gifts received during a relationship.
The amendments define "weapon" and "firearm," giving them the same meaning as under the Criminal Code. The amendments also allow judges to order that family members not possess other specified objects or have the documents necessary to legally own or possess a weapon or firearm.
The Justice Statutes Amendment Act also makes minor amendments to the Family Maintenance Enforcement Act to correct sections that were affected when the FLA was enacted.
BC's new Family Law Act comes into effect today.
For more information, see BC celebrates new Family Law Act's significance on the Ministry of Justice website.
November 29, 2012: Order in Council No. 837, dated November 23, 2012 and effective March 18, 2013, implements the Family Law Act Regulation and the Family Law Pension Regulations required by the new Family Law Act
The Family Law Act Regulation will repeal the regulations under the old Family Relations Act and replace them with the new regulation, with the exception of the sections in Part 3 that set minimum training and practice standards for family dispute resolution professionals (family mediators, parenting coordinators, and family arbitrators). These will not come into effect until January 1, 2014, allowing professionals more time to meet the new training requirements.
This new regulation and the Family Law Pension Regulations support the new Family Law Act and specifically replace the Family Relations Act Rules and Regulations, the Child Support Guidelines Regulation, and the Child Support Recalculation Pilot Project Regulation.
July 3, 2012: Amendments to Supreme and Provincial Court Family Rules and forms, effective July 1, 2012
BC Regulation #112/2012 amends the Supreme Court Family Rules by replacing the word "indigent" with "impoverished" and changing the names of forms F85 and F86 (from Order for Indigent Status to Order to Waive Fees and from Affidavit in Support of Indigent Application to Affidavit in Support of Order to Waive Fees).
BC Regulation #111/2012 amends the Provincial Court (Family) Rules to allow parties to take the Parenting After Separation course online if it is not offered in their community. Forms 31 and 32 have been amended to reflect this change.
On March 29, 2012, the Notice to Mediate (Family) pilot project expanded to all registries of the Supreme Court. The project encourages families to reach agreements without the time, cost, and emotional burden of going to court. The law will allow exceptions if mediation would be unsafe.
For more information, see the following information provided by the Ministry of Justice:
- Mediation expanded for family disputes
- Dispute Resolution Office Notice to Mediate information bulletin
- Family Mediation fact sheet (PDF) for the public
Order in Council No. 192 makes some changes to the Supreme Court Family Rules and some of the court forms are being replaced, effective April 25, 2012.
Masters may now conduct Trial Management Conferences. Rule 14-3 of the Supreme Court Family Rules has been amended to allow masters to conduct Trial Management Conferences, effective April 25, 2012. If possible, the trial judge will conduct the conference, but this change will allow conferences to be conducted in a more timely way in future without overloading the court’s resources.
Order in Council 192 also repeals the following forms and substitutes new versions:
- Child Support Affidavit (Form F37)
- Desk Order Divorce affidavit (Form F38)
- Order made after Application (Form F51)
- Final Order (Form F52)
- Restraining Order (Form F54)
- Order for Indigent Status (Form F85)
The current version of these forms contain tick box options, which were intended to help people fill out the forms correctly. However, this meant that the forms often contained sections that were not applicable to a particular case, and the courts would reject them as confusing or incorrect.
The new forms instruct users to remove all italicized instructions and options in the form that do not apply to that user’s circumstances before submitting the forms. (Simply crossing them out is not acceptable; they must be removed altogether.)
The federal Department of Justice has revised the Federal Child Support Guidelines, effective December 31, 2011, to update the child support tables that set out the amount of child support payable. Note that the Child Support Online Lookup tool has been updated to the new amounts. You cannot use the lookup to calculate child support owed before December 31, 2011. See the Web Notice for more information.
The new BC Family Law Act has now received Royal Assent. Although the act is now law, most of it will not come into force for 12 to 18 months. Watch this page for updates. See Family Law Act (third reading).
A new BC Family Law Act has been introduced in the legislature, which will, if passed, place the best interests of children first when making any decision involving a child, clarify parental responsibilities and division of assets after relationship breakdown (including common-law relationships), address family violence issues, and encourage families to resolve disputes out of court. The new act is expected to take 12 to 18 months to implement. For more information, see the Ministry of Justice news release and highlights page, a background to and synopsis of the changes on the Courthouse Libraries BC Blog, and the act itself.
July 13, 2011: Order in Council No. 191, dated May 26, 2011 and effective July 1, 2011, revises the Supreme Court Family Rules
Order in Council No. 191 requires a number of minor changes to the Supreme Court family forms, plus a few changes to court process. See JP Boyd's BC Family Law Resource Blog for a more detailed description of these changes, and see What's new on the family law website for a list of the changes to our self-help guides/forms.
May 17, 2010: Canada Revenue Agency to change how child benefits are paid to parents with shared custody
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will be changing its method for allocating the Canada Child Tax Benefit between separated parents who share custody of their children equally or almost equally. The new rule is effective July 1, 2011, and will replace the six-month rotation of eligibility for benefits. Under the new rule, the CRA will pay to each parent one-half of the benefits that parent would be entitled to receive if that parent were the only person entitled to the benefits. The benefit amount is based on the income of each recipient.
For more information, see the Child and Family Benefits page on the CRA website or contact CRA at 1-800-387-1193.
As of November 1, 2010, every weekday between 9:30 a.m. and 12:00 p.m., family lawyers give brief "next step" advice over the telephone to callers who do not qualify for other services. Two lawyers (from a roster of six) log onto the LSS phone system remotely each day from locations throughout the province. An intake legal assistant screens LSS Call Centre calls to determine what area of law the caller's issue falls into, and whether they're financially eligible before transferring them to the Family LawLINE. The service is only for callers who don't qualify for legal representation and is intended to meet a broader range of legal needs in a more accessible and innovative way. Intake continues to refer callers to in-person family duty counsel services where appropriate.
December 10, 2010: New Supreme Court Practice Direction and Administrative Notice mean minor changes to court procedures
BC Supreme Court has set out changes to the rules governing chambers practice in Practice Direction 28 (PD -28) and Administrative Notice 7 (AN-7), which took effect on November 1, 2010. People applying to get or change family orders are now required to attach an external cover page to their Application Record, which can now be submitted only between 9 a.m. on the business day that's 3 full business days before the hearing, and 4 p.m. on the business day that's one full business day before the hearing (because the court registry only has limited space for storing hearing materials).
October 1, 2010: Parenting After Separation program to expand to Campbell River, Courtenay, Penticton, and Vernon
The Parenting After Separation (PAS) program expanded on October 1, 2010 to four new mandatory PAS sites (Campbell River, Courtenay, Penticton, and Vernon) in Provincial Court. In addition, the Ministry of Justice is promoting voluntary participation in PAS for people going to Supreme Court. These free, three-hour sessions are offered in 17 locations in BC and help separating and divorcing parents ensure their decisions take into account the best interests of their children. Sessions also inform parents very generally about the court process and about non-adversarial options for resolving issues involving children.
The program has been offered for more than 12 years by the Ministry of Justice. Evaluations show that participants are very satisfied with the program; fewer cases proceed to court as a result of attending a session; and cases that do proceed to court are resolved with fewer court appearances.
June 3, 2010: More information about the new Supreme Court Family Rules going into effect July 1, 2010
The Ministry of Justice has posted information about the new Supreme Court Family Rules on their website, including:
- How the New Family Rules Were Developed
- "Smart" Forms for New Supreme Civil and Family Rules (contains a few drafts of the new PDF forms)
- Other Information About the Family Rules (includes some useful flowcharts that provide overviews of the court processes)
- Links to the rules, and to the costs and fees sections
Beginning March 29, 2010, legal aid services will be available in New Westminster and Langley. Legal aid services in Kamloops, Kelowna, Prince George, Surrey, and Victoria are moving. See our recent news release for more details, and check Legal aid offices on the LSS website for updated addresses and phone numbers.
From February 8 to March 5, 2010, there will be no Provincial or Supreme Court family duty counsel at Vancouver Law Courts. Instead, there will be drop-in family duty counsel Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at New Westminster Law Courts, 651 Carnarvon Street. After March 5, family duty counsel will return to the Vancouver Law Courts, and family duty counsel in New Westminster will continue to be provided from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on a drop-in basis. Call 604-660-1508 for more information.
Families in crisis will benefit from several programs recently approved by the Legal Services Society (LSS or the society). LSS will be introducing several new programs and reinstating others that were discontinued earlier this year due to lack of funding. The services include extended family services, family duty counsel enhancements, family services for related civil issues, the Family Law website, family law resolution support, community engagement services, and initiatives for Aboriginal services. For more information about these programs, see the December 16 news release on the LSS website.
September 10, 2009: Appeals to the Court of Appeal regarding the interjurisdictional abduction of children
Effective July 21, 2009, if an appeal to the Court of Appeal involves a situation where a child or children have been removed from their province or country of residence without the permission of another parent or guardian, either party can provide a letter to the court registry along with their Notice of Appeal/Application for Leave to Appeal or Notice of Appearance. The letter must advise the registrar that their appeal raises this issue and ask that the appeal be heard as soon as possible. The registrar will refer the matter to a judge of the Court of Appeal for a pre-hearing conference, which will be scheduled without delay. This conference may be held by teleconference if any of the parties or their lawyers live outside the Lower Mainland.
The goal of this pre-hearing conference will be to:
- set a hearing date as soon as possible,
- arrange for filing and format of necessary documents, and
- to make any orders required to assist in deciding the matter.
The Court of Appeal will make every effort to schedule the hearing within 3 weeks of receiving the letter.
BC's Attorney General has announced new Supreme Court Rules for family (and civil) cases that will come into effect by July 1, 2010. See March 2008 for more information about how these new rules were developed.
The new family rules will provide for (among other things):
- a single set of rules for family cases, rather than rules that apply to both civil and family cases;
- forms that are easier to understand and fill out;
- plainer, more readable rules;
- promotion of cooperation between parties;
- minimization of conflict; and
- ensuring that children's interests come first.
The Legal Services Society (LSS or the society) will be changing some of its family law legal aid services this year. These changes are necessary because the society's current government and non-government revenues are insufficient to cover the current demand for legal aid. The changes will direct the society's available funding and resources towards people in greatest need while having the least impact on current clients.
LSS provides three types of legal aid services: public legal information (websites, publications, telephone services, and community outreach), brief advice (duty counsel and LawLINE), and legal representation in court or before a tribunal (a lawyer for family matters). In the latter part of 2008, there was a significant increase in the demand for legal aid representation services. At the end of November 2008, referrals to lawyers for emergency family services were up 21 percent over budget. The society expects this increased demand to continue in the 2009/2010 fiscal year that begins on April 1.
Despite the increase in demand, government funding in 2009/2010 is expected to remain unchanged from last year except for a modest increase for large criminal cases. Non-government funding, however, is expected to decline. For more detailed information on funding, see the News releases on the LSS website.
Family and CFCSA (child protection/removal) services
1. Most services will remain unchanged
Since 2002, most family law legal aid representation services have been limited to financially eligible clients who are facing situations where their safety or the safety of their children is at risk; they have been denied access to their children on an ongoing basis; or there is a risk that a child will be permanently removed from the province. These and other urgent issues will continue to be available under our "emergency services" referrals. Child protection/removal services are unchanged.
2. Family duty counsel services will continue
The society recognizes the important role family duty counsel play in providing help to those who might not otherwise receive legal aid. LSS will give priority to maintaining existing duty counsel services as long as resources permit, and will provide an update on these services in future.
3. Dispute resolution services will be eliminated
Dispute resolution services were introduced in 2006 to expand family law coverage. These services are available to financially eligible clients with significant family law problems who do not qualify for legal aid representation because their cases do not raise safety concerns or qualify under any of the emergency services criteria. Dispute resolution services cover mediation and collaborative services, but not attendance in court. New applications for dispute resolution services will not be approved after March 31, 2009. Clients already approved for dispute resolution services will not be affected by this change. Approximately 600 people a year receive these services.
4. Extended family services will be reduced
Extended family services were introduced in 2005 to give lawyers extra time to complete cases. Lawyers may still apply for extended family services. LSS currently approves approximately 375 applications for extended services in emergency services cases. The number of cases approved for extra time will depend on the volume of requests received and the budget available for this service.
Questions, comments, and suggestions
LSS welcomes your feedback on legal aid services. Please direct any questions, comments, or suggestions to LSS-Services@lss.bc.ca.
January 20, 2009: Notice to Mediate (Family) Pilot Project expanded to Vancouver and New Westminster
Effective January 1, 2009, the Notice to Mediate (Family) pilot project introduced in Nanaimo was expanded to include the Vancouver and New Westminster registries of the Supreme Court. See November 1, 2007 and April 1, 2008, below, for more information about this project.
You can find information about the pilot in each location on the Ministry of Justice website.
For more information, see the Notice to Mediate (Family) Regulation (PDF) and the following information sheets about the family Notice to Mediate process.
- Dispute Resolution Office information bulletin about the process
- Fact sheet (PDF) for lawyers and mediators
- Fact sheet (PDF) for the public
Effective April 1, 2008, the Notice to Mediate (Family) pilot project introduced in Nanaimo was expanded to include the Victoria and Duncan Registries of the Supreme Court. See November 1, 2007, below, for more information about this project.
The Notice to Mediate (Family) Regulation, BC Reg. 296/2007 is posted on the Dispute Resolution Office website, along with the other Regulations.
You can find information about the pilot in each location on the Ministry of Justice website.
In March 2007, the Ministry of Justice established a Family Rules Working Group (FRWG) to prepare draft court rules based on the recommendations contained in a report by the Family Justice Reform Working Group.
Although the FRWG started out to draft a single set of stand-alone family rules for both courts, that mandate shifted to drafting a separate set of family rules for Supreme Court. For more information about how the working group arrived at this decision and an introduction to the draft rules, see the Family Rules Concept Draft Guide (scroll to the bottom of the page to find the link).
The draft family rules have been posted on the BC Justice Review Forum website in PDF format (scroll to the bottom of the page and click on "Family Rules Concept Draft").
Consultation on the draft Family Rules has begun and will continue until the end of June. You are encouraged to provide feedback on the draft rules via an online forum set up for this purpose on the BC Justice Review Forum website by June 30, 2008.
November 1, 2007: New mediation pilot project for people with family law cases in Nanaimo Supreme Court
Effective November 1, 2007, a new pilot project in the Nanaimo Registry of the Supreme Court allows either party in a family law proceeding started under either the Family Relations Act or the Divorce Act in that registry to apply for mediation.
Either party can ask for a mediation session by delivering a document to the other party (called a Notice to Mediate) on or after November 1, 2007 (even if the case was started before November 1, 2007). The Notice to Mediate may be delivered to the other party no earlier than 90 days after the filing of the first Statement of Defence in the proceeding, and no later than 90 days before the trial date.
Once the Notice to Mediate is issued, the party being served with the notice must participate in mediation unless:
- all parties have already had a mediation session on the issues in dispute;
- one party has a family restraining order or peace bond against another party;
- the mediator advises that mediation is not appropriate or would not be productive;
- the court orders that one party is exempt from participating in the mediation process, because it would be impractical or unfair to require that party to attend; or
- the parties agree in writing that one party does not have to participate in mediation, and the mediator confirms that in writing.
If one party applies for mediation and the other party refuses to cooperate, the court can order the refusing party to pay costs to the party who is applying for the mediation).
For more information about this pilot project, contact the Justice Access Centre in Nanaimo, or call LawLINE.
Listen to an audio clip about this issue.
Since February 2006, the Ministry of Justice has been reviewing the Family Relations Act. The aim is to modernize family law in BC and support co-operative approaches to resolving disputes around custody and support.
The first year of the review was devoted to research. Early in 2007, the ministry began posting discussion papers on its website and asking the public and lawyers to comment on its proposals. These papers have been grouped into three phases:
- division of property
- division of pensions
- judicial separation
- programs and services
- parenting apart
- meeting access responsibilities
- children's participation
- family violence
- legal parenthood
- spousal and parental support
- cooperative approaches to resolving disputes
- time limits and definitions
The comment period for the first set of papers has ended. The second set of papers can be commented on until September 7. The third set of papers can be commented on until December 15, 2007.
Note: The review does not address child welfare, adoption, child support, or divorce under the federal Divorce Act.
Legal Services Society (LSS) started providing more legal aid services for family clients in BC on November 1, 2006.
Legal aid services have been broadened to:
- expand the role of family duty counsel lawyers to help clients prepare for family and judicial case conferences and to attend those sessions with clients (to begin this fall in Kamloops, Kelowna, Port Coquitlam, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Surrey, Terrace, Vancouver, and Victoria);
- expand eligibility for legal aid by providing broader dispute resolution assistance to family clients who have significant custody, access, and financial security issues or who face barriers to resolving cases on their own; and
- represent family clients in court when all other efforts to resolve their cases have failed and resolving the case will make a significant difference to the client or his or her children.
Legal representation services continue to be available for eligible clients in emergency situations (for example, if a client's and/or his or her children's safety is at risk, or if there is a serious denial of access, etc.)
For more information, see the LSS News Release (October 30, 2006) (PDF)
If you think you may be eligible for the new legal aid coverage, apply for legal aid and mention these new services to the intake staff person you see.
The BC Supreme Court Rules forms (Appendix A) are no longer available on the Ministry of Justice, Court Services Branch website. Instead, users are automatically directed to the Queen's Printer website for copies of forms.
The Court of Appeal has added two civil self-help guidebooks to its website:
How to Conduct an Appeal — Civil Cases
Responding to an Appeal — Civil Cases
The guides were prepared by the Law Courts Education Society of BC and are designed to provide information about dealing with the court system.
On Monday, July 31, 2006, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that divorced and separated parents must report increases in their income when paying child support. In two out of four child support cases, the parent paying child support was ordered to pay retroactive support because of an unreported increase in income. The decision stated:
“Because the child's right to support varies with changes in income, the child's entitlement to a change in support should not be limited to the date of the recipient parent's notice of an intention to enforce it. So long as the change in income warrants different child support from what is being paid, the presumptive starting point for the child's entitlement is when the change occurred, not when it was disclosed or discovered.”
For more information about this decision, see D.B.S. v. S.R.G. et al (2006 SCC 37).
Effective July 1, 2006, some changes were made to procedures in BC Supreme Court for people having (either requesting or attending) a family Judicial Case Conference (JCC).
The changes to Rule 60(E) mean that everyone who attends a JCC must complete Parts 1 through 4 of the Financial Statement (Form 89), have it sworn or affirmed, serve it on the other party, and file it at the court registry, at least seven days before the date set for the JCC. This applies even to those people who were previously not required to complete this form (for example, recipients of child support applying to change only basic child support).
The form required to give notice of a JCC to the other party (Supreme Court Form 145 (Rule 60E(6)) — Requisition and Notice of Judicial Case Conference) has now been formally added to the Supreme Court list of forms. This form must now be served on the other party at least 30 days before the date set for the JCC.
On June 1, 2006, the Ministry of Justice implemented a Child Support Recalculation Service Pilot Project (CSRS) in the Kelowna Provincial (Family) Court. CSRS is a child support service that will automatically recalculate child support amounts every year by applying the child support guidelines to updated income information. This new service will help parents keep their child support amounts current without going back to court, ensure that children get the support they are entitled to, and ensure that payors pay support that is appropriate for their income.
CSRS is mandatory for all Family Relations Act child support orders made on or after June 1, 2006 in the Kelowna Provincial (Family) Court. Under some limited circumstances, the service will not recalculate child support. Parents with written agreements may opt into the project.
CSRS accepts only income tax information as the source for up-to-date income information. If payors do not submit their income tax information as required, CSRS will automatically assume that their income has increased by 10 percent. Only recalculations that result in changes of $5 or more will lead to changes in the child support amount to be paid. Special or extraordinary expenses will not be recalculated.