14 July 2010

New Family Relations Act to be Unveiled

The Attorney General will announce the release of a government white paper on Monday 19 July 2010 on the proposed content of a new Family Relations Act. The paper will provide a soup to nuts overview of the proposed changes and those few issues left open for debate. The government will be seeking written comment on the white paper until 8 October 2010; this is the last chance for public input into the reform of the Family Relations Act until it is introduced to the Legislature as a bill... at which point the debate will be up to your MLA.

The proposed changes will address:
  • property rights of married and common-law couples
  • guardianship of children and decision-making about children
  • enforcing of access
  • mobility/relocation issues
  • spousal support
  • mediation, arbitration and parenting coordination
I'll go into more detail once the white paper is officially released; I don't want to spoil the surprise. I will just say that the proposed changes are very, very exciting and offer the promise of a much welcome modernization of family law in this province.

This is the beginning of the end of a process begun in 2005 with the report of the Family Justice Review Working Group and will culminate in a final draft act being presented to government in early 2011. Of course when the government introduces the draft to the Legislature is up to the government and is anyone's guess.

For additional background to the reform project, click on the "Family Relations Act" label below.


  1. Part 1 definition of spouse opens the door to polygamy as there is no mention that specifically excludes married person from claiming same time conjugal ujnion with a live in "spouse".

  2. In response to the comment about ''polygamy'', a party has always been able to have a common-law spouse while still being legally married to another party. This is nothing new.

  3. Anonymous #2 is quite correct, in the sense that a person can have more than one person qualifying as a "spouse," a married spouse and a common-law spouse. What distinguishes this from polygamy is that in a polygamous relationship, all of the spouses are married spouses.

  4. JPB, dead wrong on this one. Conjugal union also means common law spouse. Section 293 Criminal code of Canada specifically speaks to this.
    Every one who:
    (a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
    (i) any form of polygamy, or
    (ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or

    (b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (i) or (ii), is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

  5. ... except that "conjugal union" doesn't mean a common-law relationship, it means a formal union under the guise of marriage; see R v Tolhurst, R v Wright (1937), 68 C.C.C. 319 (O.C.A.).

  6. Well in recent months I have learned alot about the "Family Relations Act". I feel the Family Relations Act places couples in unequal playing fields. I am a firm believer that 50/50 should only be given if 2 persons pay for something equally together. If something is in my name its mine, if its in his, its his. It seems that the new Act may give some fairness to these unequal playing fields. However, not getting married seems to be the best bet in many cases!I just hope this new law does not go "reto active" because that would be just wrong. PS: People, if you feel like I do, and you live in British Columbia NEVER sign a Cohabitation Agreement when it comes to property. Why? because then this would place you under the existing Family Relations Act, Section 5,6 Matrimonial property.